You are walking down the street in a city. A stranger of the opposite sex approaches you with a big smile.

Vous êtes dans la rue, en ville. Quelqu'un du sexe opposé, que vous ne connaissez pas, vous aborde avec un grand sourire.

Either smile back or walk a little faster.

I might smile back if the person appears genuine, but I would definitely keep walking as I had been.

I smile back and walk on by.

I smile back cautiously.

I smile back cautiously.

I smile back if the person is good looking. Ignore him if he is not good looking.

I smile back. Though it depends on my mood. I might smile back shyly; I might be bold and say 'hello" . If he is sexy, I might turn afterwards and sneak a peek of his ass.

I think the person is being friendly and smile back

I will see what they want, and then decide.

I would be cautious and a little wary - just because you never know what might happen.

I would feel flattered and smile back.

I would politely smile back and hold on to my purse.

I would probably avoid eye contact.

I would probably just smile back.

I would say hi, but be cautious.

I would think: is she good looking? Does she have a gun?

I'd be happy!

I'd probably first decide whether they are attractive or not, and then I'd smile back as I passed them on the street.

slightly smile and keep walking

slow down and give them an opportunity to initiate conversation - talking to friendly strangers is fun.

Smile back and continue to walk.

Smile in return.

Walk away.

You smile back but approach the sidewalk so that he cannot enclose you or you can cross the street quickly, if necessary.

c'est louche... si j ai le temps, je rentre dans le jeu, sinon, un grand sourire également

je l'écoute ensuite je réagis selon la situation

je le salue, et cherche à savoir ce qu´il veut (me vendre quelque chose, ou mon numéro de téléphone).

Je lui dis bonjour et je lui souris en même temps.

Je lui répondrai avec un aussi grand sourire.

je lui réponds avec un grand sourire

je lui réponds poliment en me méfiant

je lui souris également

Je lui souris et écoute ce qu'elle a à me dire.

je réponds avec un grand sourire et j´attends sa réaction

Je souris et réagis normalement : bonjour, on se connaît ?

je souris, je continue mon chemin et plus tard je m'en veux de ne pas avoir agi


Tout d'abord, il ressort du questionnaire que Americains comme Francais disent repondre au sourire par un grand sourire egalement (c'est meme peut etre legerement plus accentue chez nos compagnons outre atlantiques).
Les points de vue divergent des lors qu'on s'interesse a la reaction proprement dite. En effet, les Amercains pensent qu'il est plus prudent de continuer son chemin que de s'arreter et de discuter. Les Francais, eux, revendiquent leur politesse et certains essaient meme de comprendre ce que la personne veut (vente, sondage, numero personnel).
Cependant, il faut prendre gare au fait qu'il s'agit de reactions pour des personnes de bonne humeur. En general, l'humeur de la personne interpelee et l'apparence de la personne qui l'accoste compte enormement dans sa reaction.
Pensez vous qu'il soit normal de rendre le sourire aussi facilement ? N'est il pas risque de rendre ce sourire ?

I think that this situation is very interesting because it really shows many of the differences. For example, the French responses are mostly about smiling and responding to the person. They are very postive. On the other hand, for the Americans, it is basically where you smile, but only cautiously. There was one person who even said to hold their purse closer. I think much of it has to do with the perspective of Americans which is much more like a stranger could not have the best of intentions. Of course, not all of the responses are like this. I do feel that some are positive, like smiling back and one person who said they would be flattered. I do agree with you, Alexis, in that it shouldn't be too hard to smile, since most people who approach you are probably not trying to scare you-it's just to be friendly. I think that responding in a positive way is definitely much nicer. Do you normally respond by smiling back and even striking up a conversation in such a situation?

I agree that this situation highlights some interesting cultural differences that probably play a large part in peoples' everyday lives. I, too, found that the American responses were in general a lot more cautious, and even suspicious. While most Americans would smile back, it is true that it is generally not considered a smart idea to randomly strike up a conversation with a complete stranger. Children are told in school and at home from an early age "don't talk to strangers." I feel that this is especially true in big cities. I even remember when I was young and we would take a trip into the city, my mom would tell me to not even make eye contact with strangers because it could provoke "unwanted attention." Obviously this is a little extreme now that I'm older, but I do feel that the general American concensus is to retain a sense of polite caution when dealing with strangers. It seemed to me from the French responses that it is much more acceptable in the French culture to strike up a conversation with someone you meet on the street. Is this true in general?

I brought up in our class discussion that there is a clear difference between the reactions of the French and American students, but there is also an observable difference that occurs depending on what area of the US you are in. I was born in the Philadelphia area and live there now, but I went to high school near Portland in Maine and there is a very big difference in between the two areas. In Portland people are very friendly and you smile to the people you pass and you can say hello without much worry. I went back to work in Philadelphia this past summer, however, and it is a really bad idea to say hello to or even make eye contact with random people, particularly as a young female. I had forgotten this while living in Maine, but quickly learned my lesson again when walk to and from work. I have had crazy homeless people follow me and make inappropriate comments to me. The most effective way to prevent that from happening is what they call "the two block stare."? The idea is that you stare two blocks in front you while you're walking. The time of day is also an important factor of the situation. I don't work about walking around Portland around 2:00 AM, but I don't like walking around Philadelphia past 8:30 PM by myself.

I found it interesting that many Americans based the response on looks. I think maybe better looking people in society are seem as friendly and harmless when they smile, while not so good looking people who smile are seen as kidnappers or creepy people. Are good looks seen as very important in French society in general?

I loved reading the reactions to this situation-- I found the American responses to be very typical for a situation like this, and I do agree with Kaitlyn that it seems to be a function of the region in which you live. In the northeast, we're a bit more cautious about people that approach you (I grew up in New York, and people are certainly not very apt to smile at you and strike up a conversation unless you already know them-- both in New York state and in New York City). The south is generally seen as a lot more friendly, though, and it's funny to see how people react when they're not used to the culture of that region. For example, I was in Louisiana last year with a research group and some students came up to us on the street and gave us a big hello. My friends and I were really confused and we said to each other, wait, do we know these people? Are we supposed to be working with them on this project at some point? Ohhhhh nevermind, they're just being friendly! I feel kind of bad saying that, but I guess it's interesting to see how people react to situations like this within the same country. Are there parts of France that are considered more friendly than others, as we seem to have in the United States?

Holly is absolutely right that people in certain regions of the country are more friendly and less cautious. I thought that it was interesting that more Americans were cautious but only a few French responses showed caution to strangers. Is it possible that these responses were made by women? Women tend to be more cautious when dealing with strangers and there are probably more girls in our class than in your class. Did the French girls in the class make the comments about cautious behavior or did guys make them? If it is the case that the responses were by girls then the differences observed might not be cultural but gender specific.

It's certainly not only in America that some places have a reputation for being friendly while the people in other places are known for being rude. I think that, in general, the bigger the city the more suspicious people are likely to be of strangers and the less friendly people are likely to be.

In the US, the reaction definitely depends on where you are in the country. In large spread-out cities like Los Angeles, where you can walk for three blocks on a major street and not see anyone, it would be very strange if someone just came up to you and smiled. In many cases this means trouble. On the other hand, in cities that are more densely populated like Boston, a smiling stranger may not be seen as such a threat.

I absolutely agree with Colin and Yulia. I think if we looked at the reactions on the American side, and we were able to see where each response came from (geographically), we wound find that the people who came from a small town will have had a much more friendly reaction than the people who came from big cities.

I think Sarah makes a really good point in that it really does depend a lot on where you grow up. What do the French think of this?

I pretty much agree with all of the comments above, in that I think region does have a very large impact on the response to the situation. There is definitely a big difference between the way people respond in different parts of the country, above the difference that is apparent between cities and small towns. I experienced this difference firsthand when I came to Boston for school. Coming from California, it is not uncommon to say hello, or at least make eye contact and smile as you pass someone on the street. When I came to Boston, I said a little "hi" to someone as I passed, and I got this look like I was from another planet. I tried many more times (I was curious whether or not it was just that person), and got the same reaction. Has anyone else had this experience? Are the differences between regions as marked in France? Maybe it has something to do with the size and diversity of the US?