Workers in Russia are being taught how to smile in a bid to be more welcoming to tourists during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which kicks off today.
According to the BBC, Russians do not smile as much as other Europeans. An article in The Atlantic attempts to explain why when it loosely translates a Russian proverb: “Laughing for no reason is a sign of stupidity.”
However, there’s now a reason to smile as Russian news agency Tass claims that 1.5 million foreign tourists are expected in Russia during the World Cup. To prepare for all the tourists, workers in key companies like FIFA, Russian Railways, and Moscow Metro are all undergoing unique training.
The BBC says the world governing body for football and the two Russian transport firms are teaching staff how to smile.
The report says that “Russian train conductors are being taught how to smile at foreigners,” in an effort to tackle the stereotype that its people are unfriendly.
The classes include “laughter yoga” in which workers practice being lighthearted, friendly and goofy, according to the station.
It’s simply not part of Russian culture to smile as much as other Europeans, said participants such as Yulia Melamed.
“It’s strange for a person to walk down the street and smile. It looks alien and suspicious,” Melamed said.
She was once stopped by a police officer simply for grinning, she said.
But Russians hope to kick their image as cold and stand-offish — at least temporarily — before the World Cup kicks off on Thursday.
Roughly 1.5 million foreign tourists are expected to visit Russia during the international event.