At least in Europe, Americans have the reputation of being very nice and friendly when you meet them, in stores, or at restaurants etc. Whenever a European has been on vacation in the U.S., he or she always comes back amazed over how nice people were and how good service they got in various establishments. It is probably true more often than not (and it certainly was my experience in California), but not in Washington DC. There are obviously exceptions, but many times, people can’t even bother to say hello when I am in a store or a cafe, not to mention smile a little. (And yes, I always say hi of course.) And when I first arrived here, I often felt degraded by the the fact that people looked at me like I was the biggest idiot in the city when asking them something. I am not really sure why this is, because while I have now only referred to people that I meet in their professional roles, it is more or less the same when I meet new people in private, at my dance studio, or at a bar, etc. In fact, few of my neighbors say hello to me before I do when I meet them, and they normally try to avoid eye contact. I have of course met a lot of very nice people here too, but there is a notable difference from other places where I have lived. Only tonight, I got quite a nasty reply from a lady who worked in the metro, when I asked if there was a time table for the trains (given that I had to wait for 20 min last week). When I came back down in the metro again after my dance class, I heard her telling off her colleague who was sweeping the floors in the metro entrance. Not exactly spreading the love!
Right now, I am reading The Power of Kindness by Piero Ferrucci and thought it might not be the most well written book, I think it is an important topic. Kindness is too often an undervalued quality in a person. Yet, who is more pleasant to be with: someone kind and considerate, or someone arrogant and self absorbed? I also believe in spreading happiness through kindness. If someone gives me a smile and some kind words in the morning, I get in a good mood and tend to smile and say something nice to the next person that I meet. So my next mission is to try to convert DC into a more smiling and friendly city. Wish me luck!