Monday, 8 February 2010
I take my turn manning the till in the charity shop where I work. Standing behind the counter gives plenty of time for reflection and for observing. I've noticed the different ways people come into the shop. Some will say a cheery "hello" or "good morning", others will smile and look away, while some never glance in my direction at all. The difference of approach interests me.
Contrast that with France where a customer would almost without fail greet the shop assistant, and very likely all the other customers in the shop too. A murmured "Bonjour messieurs-dames" as they come in the door is normally all it amounts to, especially if there are several people around. Even in a restaurant, customers will greet the assembled company, but probably not in Paris.
I think it could be a matter of public versus private space. If you're walking down a high street, you don't think to greet everyone unless they happen to be someone you know. If you're walking your dog in a woods, though, and come across another person, I can't imagine you wouldn't greet them. But then there is the intermediate zone. Walking along the sea front yesterday, some greeted, some didn't.
I find the whole thing intriguing, part cultural, part psychological. Who greets, where and and when?
Oh, and PS, in case it isn't immediately obvious, I'm talking from the UK. England, south-east corner, to be precise.