Thursday, 23 August 2007

What is wrong with my smile?

During my first visit to portugal 19 yrs ago, my first impression of their people was....they are happy,nice, very polite & friendly. Though i couldnt understand a word they were saying in those days, that observation & my impression stayed till we decided to go back & live in this beautiful country.

As, i was not able to get work during our first year, hubby & i decided to get into business like opening a small gift shop.So we went to a shopping center nearby,look around for an ideal shop available.There was one almost at the end of the shopping center, inquired about it, talked to the administrator,signed the contract & we´re ready to prepare and start the business.

For almost a week hubby & I have to clean & prepare the shop to our liking. Each day,to come our shop we have to pass through all the other shops.Curious shop owners standing by the doorway can see us passing thru ( probobly scrutinizing us each time we pass).Hubby sometimes speak with a few of them, greetings like "Bom Dia" or "Boa Tarde", a common courtesy in this part of the world to greet people wether they are your acquiantance or not. AS FOR MYSELF? Being an ASIAN with different culture, I ONLY SMILED TO PEOPLE! The shopkeepers was alarmed at our presence,they signed a petition paper,presented to the administration their concern.The petition is about us! The shopkeepers requested the administration not to let us have the shop in the shopping center because "WE ARE ANTIPATICOS"! ( UNFRIENDLY,SNOB, UNSYMPATHETIC,ETc,ETC.)

Later, my husband found out from another shopkeeper that it was because of me,being snobish,they said i never say hello or greet them! If those lady shopkeepers did´nt see me smile at them, its because they are only too happy to speak to my hubby & they dont look at me in the eye! WAS IT MY FAULT? WAS THAT A CRIME???!!! They judged me even before they knew me which was very sad. That was my first bad experience among the others that followed afterwards.

Where i came from, a smile is very precious & very well appreciated gesture. Common courtesies like "Good Morning" & "Good Afternoons" are only used as a courtesy at work to show respect to your superiors, guest or clients and to the family elders and acquiantances.To the elders , we have to bow & also kiss the back of their hands not on their cheek. My education does not allow me to raise my voice to the elders,respect is very important to the elders, parents, aunties or uncles, elder brothers or sisters. As a kid, we are not allowed to be near & listen to older peoples conversation, not to stare at people when they are eating,must behave well in other peoples home & no conversation or arguments at the table. And so many more of do´s & donts..

As time went by, my relationship with the co-shopkeepers did not go beyond my ocassional greetings of giving them only a smile (when i feel up to it). I dont owe them anything , they are the ones that should apologize for their attitudes!


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