by Kailee Dunn
The odds are that if we met on the street, I will greet you with a smile. In most cases I might even say, "hello." I was raised to believe that it is polite to greet one another, no matter if we are friends or total strangers.
I continued this habit during my first few days in Italy. If I locked eyes with a local Cagliese, I greeted them with a toothless grin and sometimes a "ciao." However, during my fourth day of class, we discussed the subject of non-verbal communication. Unbeknownst to me, I had been misusing a couple non-verbal motions to try and communicate with the Italian people. For example, it was brought to my attention that some cultures find it odd to smile or greet a complete stranger. This apparently holds true in Italy.
When thinking about all of the people I smiled at, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that they all smiled back- even if it were after a moment of hesitation. I learned that while something polite and friendly in one culture, might come off as downright strange in another culture. However, I now find myself beginning to smile at people and awkwardly looking away mid-smile. I have yet to come to a conclusion of what is worse, just sticking with a big grin or being awkward.