You are walking down the street ( in a big 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.

Cross the street to the other side
do I know this person?
I look at them strangely and then move on.
I reply with a smile.
I smile back
I would approach her with a bigger smile.
I would either feel happy and smile back. At the same time, I would probably wonder if she was looking at someone behind me.
I would feel nervous and wonder if I knew him. I would probably tentatively nod back.
I would nod politely, smile back and keep walking
I would slightly return the smile.
I would smile back and perhaps being a conversation.
I would smile back, say hello, and continue walking.
I'd wait for her to say something to me, and speculate as to why she was smiling
If they weren't completely repulsive, I'd smile right back, and if they start to pass me, I'd follow them with my eyes. If they looked sketchy, I'd do a really good job at not noticing them.
Return the smile.
smile and say good morning and be happy
smile back
Smile back and say hello

c'est cool ca ne m'arrive jamais
j'attends de savoir ce qu il veut
j'attends de voir ce qu'il me veut (il veut peut être juste connaître l'heure !)
j'ecoute sa question,
je demande que ce qu'elle cherche
je lui dis bonjour.
je lui rend son sourire si c est un jeune homme mais ca s arrête là, si c est un vieux pervers, une racaille, je ne le regarde meme pas, je suis ma route
je lui répond avec un grand sourire... surtout s'il est beau! genre Brad Pitt...
Je lui souris et lui dis "bonjour", et plus si affinitées.
je lui souris timidement
je répond à son sourire si elle est jolie, sinon : rien
je souris en retour
tout dépend de ce qu'il veut , s'il est correct ou pas
Tout dépend de la demande... mais généralement, je reste assez froide, fermée et élude rapidement les questions, en bref je me débarasse de l'inconnu de manière courtoise mais efficace.


Very Similar

On first glance, it really seems as if the French are as equally accepting (or equally disapproving) of this situation. There were
comparable amounts of smiles, responses and caution on both sides. However, I found it very amusing that a great deal of the
smile-reaction and response-reaction on the French side had little stipulations involved. For example, "...avec un
sourire...surtout s'il est beau!" :) Which I find cute. I also noticed that, on the American side, the caution-responses were more
extreme than the French caution-responses. Ex: "Cross the street to the other side." But, all in all, I thought the responses were
quite similar. A question to the French students: in general how important is physical beauty in France? In Paris? In the

smile :)

I have the impression that in France it is more unusual to approach a stranger with a smile. Is it true? Here in the US I've
noticed that many people smile to you when you look at them for more than one or two seconds.

different correlation

An interesting feature of this question is that whether for good or bad, many of the responses reveal the gender of their author.
It seems to me that the attitude of the response depends on gender more strongly than on the country of origin, which is
perhaps understandable. Few men would mind a woman smiling at them! Maybe one cultural difference - on the French side,
several responses indicate that the author would expect the other person to inquire about some information. Does it mean that
in France, people wouldn't smile for no reason, but with the intention to actually approach somebody with a question? In
America, I guess that smiling at passing people has become so customary that it doesn't convey any message, just like saying
"how are you" doesn't necessarily mean that I want to hear a lot about the other person's life.

You have a question?

I definitely noticed the correlation between smiling at a stranger and wanting something/needing to ask a question on the French
side. Americans seem to be more likely to take a smile at face value, just as a friendly gesture. However, the French seemed to
wonder more at the motives of the person, often times assuming that they had a question. However, one thing I was curious
about was which responses corresponded to which gender. I think it'd be interesting to see if, for instance, the women
considered a smile just as a friendly gesture and the men assumed that there must be a motive behind it. As an American guy, I
said I would return the smile. I'd guess that girls in America would be more skeptical about guys than vice versa, but if I'm
wrong, let me know.


I think people's answers also depend on which part they focused on more. If you focus on the fact that they're approaching
you, then presumably they have some interest in you - otherwise they'd just be passing by. I'm still not clear what the situtation
is. Is the (woman) walking up to me? Just walking down the street, and happens to be in my direction. Is it a big smile? A
stupid grin? (Is the person looking at me? Staring off into space? At the sidewalk?) An evil big grin? I'd be suspicious of
someone (woman or man) walking towards me, looking at me, with a big evil grin. Wouldn't you? If instead, it was a normal
looking person, who's just passing by and puts on a big grin as she passes, I'd probably smile back. In other cases, I suppose
I'd assume the person wants directions to something, since that seems to occur fairly frequently around here.

Réponse à Katherine

Je suis de ton avis, les réponses françaises et américaines se rejoignent assez. Pourtant, il me semble que les français se posent
plus de questions sur la nature et les objectifs de l'inconnu que les américains. Celà est peut être dû au fait qu'il est assez
fréquent de se faire embêter par des inconnus dans les lieux publics (surtout pour les filles !!!). On se demande souvent se
qu'ils nous veulent et on a pas toujours envie de se faire aborder. En ce qui concerne la question de la beauté il est vrai que
c'est la première chose que l'on voit et sur laquelle on se fait une opinion. Il est plus agréable de se faire aborder par un bel
inconnu que par un tout moche. Mais les beaux sont rares !!!! Dans tous les cas, on attend de connaître leurs intentions et on
continue notre route.

Le sourire :)

N'étant jamais allée aux USA, je ne peux pas me rendre compte si les américains ont le sourire facile. Il est vrai qu'en France,
les gens ne se sourient pas beaucoup dans la rue, ils sont endormis le matin dans les transports en communs, stressés dans la
journée et fatigués le soir. Ils n'ont donc pas envis de se faire aborder pour quoique ce soit.


Les réponses précisant par exemple "... surtout s'il est beau !" sont humouritiques. Les français ne sont pas tous des dragueurs
invétérés. Ils répondront aussi poliment à une personne au physique agréable qu'à une autre.

Différence de réaction entre hommes et femmes

Je crois qu'une femme qui se fait aborder par un inconnu avec un grand sourire sera plus sceptique sur ses intentions qu'un
homme se faisant aborder par une femme avec un grand sourire.

"sourire attitude"

Il n'est pas naturel pour un français ou une française d'arborer un sourire non stop sur le visage. Lorsque celui-ci apparaît, il
n'est pas pour autant hypocrite. Nous ne sourions pas seulement pour obtenir une réponse à une question mais nous
appliquons la politesse au moment précis où nous posons la question. Le sourire n'apparaît qu'au moment où la personne veut
établir le contact. Il me semble que pour les américains le sourire fait parti intégrante de l'attitude à adopter en public, dans la
vie de tous les jours. Les français sont peut être plus réservé à ce sujet.

Réponse à Paul

Nous nous posons en général les mêmes types de questions lorsque nous sommes abordés par un inconnu souriant.


In response to the observation that a guy who is approached by a smiling female would be have less suspicions than a girl who
is approached by a smiling male...I think that largely has to do with society in general. In just about all cultures I've come
across, the female is always warned about the dangers of the world to a greater extent than the male. One assumes that, as a
man, one would be in less danger than if one is a female. I find this a rather bigoted, biased and incorrect assumption (just my
personal opinions on the matter), but I, like I said, I haven't encountered a single culture in which this isn't true.

Stress in France

Pauline (please excuse me for using your name, but I wasn't sure how to properly address you), in one of your responses, you
said that it isn't natural for the French to walk around with smiles on their faces because they are tired and stressed from the
night before. I was wondering about the reason the French are that tired and stressed. Do the French go to work earlier and
leave later than the Americans?


Katherine, it's a sad fact that a woman is exposed to greater danger than a man, but it's not a biased or incorrect assumption.
However, this is not only about danger; after all a smiling stranger cannot do much harm unless you follow him to dark places.
Woman tend to be more cautious about the first contact with a man, for reasons which might have to do with the nature of
dating and relationships in general. Any ideas? Do you feel that this is significantly different in France?

frequency of people smiling

My parents always told me that one of the worst things about New York city (or cities in general; they absolutely loathe big
cities, mind you) is that when you're walking down the street, people never smile and say hello or anything, that you can never
even make eye contact with people. But I've noticed that if you (okay, I) am walking down the road with a huge grin on my
face and even somewhat try to make eye contact with someone I'm passing, that they'll almost unilaterally smile back or say
hey or *something*. But that might have something to do with the fact that when I'm in a grinny mood I usually don't look like
I'm about to rob you (or do something worse).

the mannerisms of strangers

I find it to be slightly disheartening at the amount of people who would react negatively or not reciprocate a smile from a
stranger. Similarly to what Molly was saying, day to day life is more pleasant in general when people exude positive energy by
smiling, whether it is to strangers or friends. While some people in America might say they don't notice such behavior, I feel it is
reasonably apparent. Do you French students follow the generalization stated by Pauline, where she claimed that you only use
smiles to get someones attention, or establish contact?

MIT vs. United States

So, while similar in most ways, I found that the French responses almost always assumed some kind of conversation following
the smile, while the American (MIT) responses more often than not assumed some kind of non-verbal communication, both
positive and negative. In my experience outside of MIT, though, I find that most Americans (men) do respond more verbally to
a smile, almost always starting with a simple "hello" and sometimes moving to a drawn out conversation. Do you think the MIT
responses are representative of the American culture as a whole, or only that of the MIT subculture?

Le manque de sourire : un mal des grandes villes

Je crois que finallement, les gens sourient plus et sont peut être plus ouverts dans les campagnes que dans les grandes villes.
Cela est peut être dû au côté impersonnel des grandes villes. Les gens se connaissent moins, vivent plus facilement seuls et ont
une vie plus stressante que dans les petites villes où le rythme est plus détendu. C'est d'ailleurs pour cet aspect calme et
conviviale que beaucoup de personnes préfèrent vivre en banlieue et à la campagne et que beaucoup de jeunes parents partent
y élever leurs enfants et que beaucoup de personnes âgées y partent pour leur retraite. Tout cela dépend aussi de la région :
dans le sud de la France, région riche, la vie paraît plus détendue, il y a le soleil... alors que dans le nord, région qui connait des
difficultés économiques, les gens sont très sympas mais plus réservés.

juste une question de stratégie... :-)

Je crois que le français, même s'il n'a pas le contact facile au premier abord, il n'en garde pas moins un côté chaleureux dans la
sphère privée. Ce n'est pas forcément le fait de dire bonjour à un inconnu qui va faire d'une personne qu'elle est ouverte....le
fait de dire bonjour tout le temps(comme vous) ou pas du tout revient au même dans la mesure ou cela devient une habitude et
donc banal...en revanche si un français se met à dire bonjour ou sourire à une personne inconnue cela sortira vraiment de
l'ordinaire et aura donc beaucoup plus d' est vrai qu'en tant qu'homme, j'aurais plus tendance à dire bonjour à des
belles demoiselles qu'à d'autres gens :)

Cultural Stereotypes

Er...I'm not sure how anyone would feel about my bringing this up, but... It's strange that, in France, people walking on the
streets are so reserved. The stereotype of French culture (I think, not completely sure) is that of romance, of boldness, daring
sexuality and stuff like that. However, all the people walking in the streets are so serious and reserved. In other words,
completely opposite to the stereotype. Thus, I'm wondering, how did this stereotype come to be?


There is something to be observed about caution... On the one hand, I'm despairing that people on the street don't smile at
each other in passing very much. On the other hand, in my experience, the only time a guy smiles at random girl on the street is
when he's thinking lecherous thoughts. But that's just probably my bad luck. Oh, btw, Jan (I know you responded sometime
back, but I haven't been able to get on in a while), boys can be in just as much danger as girls. The same evils happen to both
sexes (except pregnancy, of course). True, they don't tend happen to guys as often (this is guessing, since most of these evils
are ever reported, especially if the victim is a guy), but the danger is still there.