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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Greet Someone

We've witnessed a strange phenomenon here in China. When two "foreign" strangers pass on the street, it's not uncommon for one of them to look away as though the other weren't there.

A friend of mine calls this "Marco Polo Syndrome," theorizing that the person who behaves that way wants to believe he's the first--and only--non-Chinese here!

Whatever the reason, it feels a little odd to be heads up, eyes directed, mouth poised for a greeting, and then suddenly to feel invisible.

This is compounded by how readily Chinese people who pass us say "Hello, Hello" in what some have called a kind of verbal ambush.

Now, reverse the situation. You're a stranger in a very strange land, making your way down the pavement in an environment of alien sights, sound, and smells; and suddenly, there's a friendly face ("foreign" or Chinese), smiling, making eye contact, and extending a warm greeting.

Safe!

Well, here's some news for you: We're all strangers in a strange land. We're all foreigners in need of a smile, a look, a friendly "Hello."

So why not be that oasis, that refuge, that port-in-a-storm, and greet others?

Some "Marco Polos" will ignore you, some look embarrassed, but most will gratefully accept your greeting, and offer you one in return.

And guess what will happen then?

You'll be happier.

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