Sunday, February 1, 2009

Nature does nothing uselessly.
- Aristotle

I know a lot of people feel really uncomfortable when people stare at them, but it doesn't bother me so much. I guess I assume people are just friendly and curious.

Personally, I'm always curious about the people around and I know I would stare at others more if it wasn't "against the rules". In Asia, it's not culturally impolite to stare and as a white person, people really do tend to stare at you. I know that a lot of travelers find it very offensive, but in Nepal, I learnt that the best thing to do was to stare back at the person staring at you. The results were amazing. Sometimes it would take a full 10 seconds or more of staring and smiling but eventually the other person would start to smile and you felt a real connection. Actually it's really amazing what you can say with your eyes alone.
For instance have you ever wondered what happens if you do break the eye contact rules?One day in Stockholm, I was feeling so lonely that I decided to find out. It was a pretty funny experience. I was on the train about eight minutes from my station, and opposite me sat a young guy about the same age as me. So I looked at him and when he looked back at me I didn't do what was expected - I just keep looking, and of course smiling. Well, what happened? After a short time, it occurred to me that he thought I was "checking him out". Oops, so that's what happens if you break this rule. The last few minutes to my station were a little uncomfortable and I couldn't get off that train fast enough! So wherever you go in the world you can say a lot without even opening your mouth.
The problem is that sometimes what you are saying with your eyes depends on where in the world you are. One thing is for sure though, wherever in the world you end up, a friendly look and a smile can open doors.

So I challenge you to go out there and let your eyes do the talking!

--- Written in 2006 by Clare McLennan --- Sweden