“How ya doing. Fine,” is a satisfying greeting in New York. Any passerby will surely respond to you in tandem, “Fine. You?” Hardly effusive, it does rely on reassuring cultural norms and rituals. All is well. Greeting currency has its own EuroZone, however. Nodding appears appropriately friendly in Boston’s Back Bay but reads as a neurological disorder in Madrid. Smiling at strangers in Paris is viewed as odd and, worse, peculiarly American. Bejing? Don’t smile. Really.
The cheerier among us shouldn’t lose heart, they should just go to Texas. I am considered abjectly dour in Texas when I merely make eye contact and smile. Texans are ready with baskets of warm muffins and I’m DOA. Cutting the airport security line in Houston to avoid missing my flight only got me a “Do what you have to do, miss” from the passenger I had wronged. Hawks and doves. Cut a line at La Guardia and you’ll see what I mean.
Striking the right note is no easy task. A sideways glance will do in Finland: there is no room for gratuitous good spirits at the Helsinki Inn. It may never rain in Southern California, but do not show up at an Angelenos home just because they invited you over any time (they didn’t mean it!) Feeling sad over the state of polite society? Go to Dublin where you’ll be hugging against the weather before religion and politics even come up.
Be a Readers’ Digest version of yourself. And make sure to finish everything on your plate when you are a guest in Cairo.