I want to make this clear: In the war between Russia and Georgia, we should be rooting for the Russians. Indeed, the Russians are alright.
For example, this week I read that Americans who are opening franchises such as Starbucks in Moscow are trying to train the local Russian workers to smile to the customers. This is because Russian service providers, just so you understand, don’t like to smile. Why should they like to do it? Why should someone whose career pinnacle thus far is serving grand lattes smile?
Moreover, what can a customer who just bought a Starbucks coffee do with a smile? How will this smile help him? Once he tastes the coffee, the only thing anyone can do for him is give him his money back and offer a comforting hug, and even that won’t completely compensate for the unpleasantness.
Only American service providers smile automatically while getting six bucks an hour for doing their dead-end job. Meanwhile, only American customers believe this smile and smile back. More realistic nations – that is, everyone – know there’s nothing to smile about in the pour-coffee-for-me-and-I’ll-leave-you-a-quarter industry.
In fact, when it comes to completely enlightened nations, like the French for example, a waiter who is caught smiling has his license revoked on the spot.
The American entrepreneurs also discovered that their Russian employees are accustomed to no longer working once they get a promotion. From an American point of view, this is terrible conduct that requires re-education. Yet from a Russian (and also Israeli) point of view, what’s unclear here?
So you were promoted? You were transferred to a corner office? You got a secretary and a luxury vehicle? It’s time to rest, brother. Give others the opportunity to work a little, just like you worked in the past. Other people also want to be promoted. Sit down and do nothing; this is why we have those other people here, what’s their name, oh yeah, employees.
And so, the Russians, a nation where service providers don’t smile and certainly don’t use a promotion to work harder, sound completely sane to me. Russians are serious characters, and their smiles, as is the case with most human beings, have some value. Yet the Americans emptied smiles of any value or emotion, after they made them free.
The American smile is meaningless. Strangers throw it your way on the street as if it was a free local newspaper at noon. It has neither meaning nor intention. It has no reason for being. It’s a false smile.
Yet the Russians are thinking people. They know that smiles have value, just like they know what Georgia is doing in south Ossetia, and they’re willing to fight against it.
I believe that in Russian it’s called “respect.”