The Significance of a Smile

Septemper 20, 2007-- Kaitlin Foley

With the Summer Olympics less than a year away, many efforts are underway to transform Beijing. While there are several efforts to improve the physical environment of the city, there are also campaigns to transform the image of the Chinese people. Organizations and committees are being asked to shape the atmosphere and reception that many tourists will confront as they travel to Beijing.

One of the current campaigns is the ˇ°smile campaign.ˇ± According to a China Daily article last 5300 Beijing volunteers have signed up to welcome and serve the athletes and tourists during the Olympics. Throughout the city there are pamphlets, posters, and publications urging Chinese to smile more and be friendlier. The official motto of this campaign is ˇ°the smile of the volunteers is the best name-card of Beijing.ˇ±This group of volunteers is committed to creating a warm and welcoming environment. Many acknowledge that the actions of volunteers and individuals in the service and tourism industries will shape the image of Beijing, and China to the world.

Cultural differences have often been the cause of many misunderstandings. The Chinese have been unjustly criticized in the past for their cold, unfriendly demeanor. Gu Wen notes in a China Daily article on the smile campaign that in the West people associate a smile with positive characteristics, such as being friendly and trustworthy. However, traditionally Chinese tend to encourage a more serious look. A smile to a stranger is often not thought of as a friendly gesture, but can be thought of as being silly or a sign of an alternative motive.Thus, the difference in the significance of something as simple as a smile can create problems in cross-cultural interactions.

This negative impression of Chinese people is what many are attempting to avoid with the current civilian campaigns. The Beijing Olympics, stand as a significant opportunity for China to shape and create their image for the world. Li Binghua, the Vice Executive President of the Beijing Olympic Organizational Committee (BOCOG) was quoted in an article in the People's Daily saying the national image relies on the service and actions of the individuals interacting with and serving the athletes and tourists at the Olympics.

While many workto transform the city into a ˇ°city of smiles,ˇ± one may wonder how successful this effort will be. While in the end it is just a smile, this campaign reflects an attitude and mindset change taking place.It seems everywhere you look in Beijing there is talk of the Olympics. As people get caught up in the whirlwind excitement, many are embracing the motto behind the Olympics "One World, One Dream."

1 Comment

  • 1. Anna Lei  |  September 21, 2007, 10:25 am

    Indeed, smiling is fabulous important not only to others, but ourselves, which can make you feel better, more persuasive and less annoyed, and make others comfortable being with you, and feel that you are friendly and polite.

    If you don't believe it, you can try it just by practicing smiling whenever you think about it. To practice it, so, you had better pay constant attention to your facial expression this week, even this month. If you're on line in a store, smile. When you are among the congested people in a bus, smile. When you're sitting by yourself, or talking on the phone, smile. When you face your clients, smile. When you pass co-workers in the office, smile! In the end, it is certainly that you are getting an incredible effect on your life by smiling. Of course, you must be sincere when you smile. You don't have to show off every one of your teeth or look goofy. Just a natural smile.

    If you develop the habit of smiling often, you're going to feel a lot better, be more optimistic and gain the cooperation of others. It's a habit that will serve you well for the rest of your life. Just Keep in mind, attitude is everything.

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