Russians are notorious for being miserable bastards. Most Russians tell me that isn’t true, they just don’t smile unless there’s a reason to. I’m not totally convinced by this – I can usually think of quite a lot of reasons to smile, starting with the slightly-sanctimonious ‘well, you’re not in a refugee camp in Somalia’ and working down from there, and being generally happy seems like as good a reason to smile as any. But I can see their point, and if they don’t want to smile and be happy, it’s no skin off my nose.
Where it is a problem, is that smiling isn’t only evidence of an unusually happy demeanor – it’s also a sign of being an idiot. A number of us Brits have been told off for smiling too much, and told that people won’t take us seriously. So now, as well as having to communicate with people with handsignals and dodgy Russian, I have to remember to not smile while I’m doing it. Or just accept that people will think I’m an idiot, which at the moment seems rather more appealing!