Here’s a travel tip of the day: Smile!
Because quite literally everything cool has happened when I smile at people. My students wake up, random strangers engage in conversation, and you brighten someone’s day. As the saying goes:
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
It’s amazingly true that something as simple as a smile can open doors for you and make you or someone else feel great!
In Japan the Jr. High schools have an English conversation competition for the 2nd and 3rd years (called 8th and 9th graders in the U.S.) every summer. I was able to judge, give a performance, and M.C. the city level and again (more professionally) M.C. the regional level of this competition because everyone likes how often I smile. The Japanese M.C. and organizer at the regional level came up to me that afternoon and told me that my smile lit up the room and helped put the students at ease. It was a pleasure having me there and she’d love to look for opportunities to work with me again!
Almost every teacher I’ve worked with has commented at some point that they like my smile and they think I’m a very friendly person (even if I only see some of them for an hour every six weeks). It leaves a favorable impression and they are more willing to talk with me about classes and answer questions about anything from the next visits schedule to what this odd piece of paper I got in the mail is trying to tell me!
Students are more willing to chat with me in the hallways and during lunch now that I’m not that scary foreigner who’s two heads (or more!) taller than them! If I smile at them in class they are usually the one that answers the next question and are less likely to fall asleep because they’re much more eager to please than if I was frowning at them all day.
Just today, I was laughing at the swans and the fish in Senba Lake in Mito (the
capital city of Ibaraki Prefecture) fighting over the seeds and dried peas some kids were feeding them when a boy (maybe in the 4th or 5th grade) came over and handed me some of his dried peas so I could join in! I smiled at the older guy next to me and my friend at the counter in Hamazushi
yesterday and we got a nice Japanese lesson out of it! It astounds me how many people here are aching to practice their English on real, live foreigners and are just waiting for a sign that it’s okay to come talk to you. I have so many pictures with random strangers who just wanted to come and talk to someone who isn’t Japanese!
Of course, we’re not always in the mood for smiling, everyone has bad days. But I’ve found that reminding myself to paste on a smile every time I walk out my front door, whether I feel like it or not, usually leads to something ordinary or extraordinary that turns that chore into the biggest, most genuine smile ever!
So smile on my friends, and enjoy whatever your day brings you!