What is it with Brits and eye contact? Is it just me that has noticed the awkwardness when interacting with any member of the general public? I’m sure we’ve all been there, walking down the street when you spy someone coming towards you…do you smile and say hello? Stare at the pavement? Or hastily get your phone out and tweet about that awkward moment you just encountered? More and more I think it should be the first one, and the fact that it’s usually the latter two frustrates me.
Having done a bit of travelling now I really have to say it does just seem to be us Brits that have this issue. In Thailand most people will bow their heads at you in respectful greeting, Australians made eye contact and smiled and in the States you rarely walked past anyone without a ‘good morning’ or ‘hello’. I’m not talking about city rush hour, but those times when there’s only two of you doing the long advance down a road, or waiting for a bus, or queuing anywhere really… so why do we make it awkward? How unfriendly we must seem to ex pats from other places!
A few months ago CB and I went for a walk to the beach and along the way he cheerfully greeted those we walked by, perhaps with a smile, a ‘hello’ or a friendly ‘good afternoon’. As he did this something amazing happened, those people who had been staring at the grass in a typically British fashion all looked up and smiled! They wished us a good afternoon back and genuinely looked happier for the interaction. I was impressed at how friendly and polite he was to these strangers and at their reaction back…it seems all they needed was for someone to take the first step, break the ice as it were. So here’s another situation you may have been in, when you’ve been wished a good day by a stranger, or shared a smile or some other interaction you weren’t expecting from someone you had never met before. Did they hold the door open for you in a shop? Let you go ahead of them in the supermarket, or tell you you’ve dropped something when you didn’t realise? It seems to me that when we are friendly and polite to each other, be they strangers or friends, then everyone feels a little better for it.
So, the next time you’re out walking and you spy a stranger in the distance, keep your chin up! Smile, make eye contact and wish them a good day. I can almost guarantee you’ll both feel better for a bit of human interaction, and maybe Britain will become a little friendlier for the effort. I hope so 🙂