I had a comment on a recent blog entry about looking through rose coloured glasses. That isn't how the author put it but it is what the comment has reminded of. On holiday you do tend to see just the pleasant aspects of a place and when you get home you remember the nice things and gloss over the negatives.
Although we all tend to rave about how friendly the canal world is I'm sure everyone would have a story of an unpleasant experience. And... boaters do tend to need to leave their canal haven and venture out into the real world to buy groceries and other necessities. Every country has its own "good, bad and ugly" and it's true that we need to be realistic about what to expect when we get over there and buy our narrowboat.
I recall reading a story of a woman who moved to the UK. They settled into their new house and the next week she saw the lady from the house next door as she was walking out to her car. She went and introduced herself and asked if the couple next door would come for dinner the following week. The response was "No thank you!". Wow, that would take the wind out of your sails! Now, I'm not saying that everyone must be on "invite to dinner" terms with their neighbours, and I'm sure there's many a time you'd rather just say no and that's it. But surely a polite excuse? Maybe another time? We're really busy at the moment? I'll let you know when we're free?
The blog comment has also reminded me of what we thought was a rather funny thing on my visit to Finland for a family reunion in 2008. It was a clear reminder of how different cultures and your upbringing can shape the way you see things. The Finns take life seriously. Now, don't get me wrong, they do have a sense of humour, and they are friendly and happy with their lives but they smile when something makes them genuinely happy. Smiling as a greeting or acknowledgement is something they see as being a bit artificial. Hearing "have a good day" from a shopkeeper would seem to a Finn to be fake friendliness. You might say that to your friend but not a complete stranger.
One of my uncles (my mum is one of ten children) also came from Australia to the reunion with his wife, and I don't get to see them all that often. He is nearly always smiling, laughing, teasing. It was lovely for us to spend some time together and he enjoyed teasing me about old childhood happenings. He was just a teenager when I was born and as my mum was the eldest of the 10 children and I the first grandchild, I spent the first 5 years of my life with 9 doting aunts and uncles. So there was quite a bit of laughing and smiling from the Aussie contingent over the reunion weekend. He was had a smile on his face the whole weekend!
After we got home, one of my aunts spoke to one of her cousins in Finland and asked what everyone had thought of my uncle. The response was "No comment!" They thought he was altogether way too happy, smiling and jolly.
I told this story to a young Finnish second cousin of mine who is currently spending time in Australia. She nodded knowingly... yes, they would definitely think that smiling and laughing like that is over the top. She said she's really enjoying the friendly, laid back Aussie attitude. "Everyone seems so happy!" she said.
So we smile at the person next to us in a queue as we stand there waiting, our shopkeepers and checkout operators might say "have a good day" or "enjoy the sunshine" when you're leaving, we might even laugh out loud with a total stranger if we've both seen something funny and catch each others eye, and here in our small country town we wave at any neighbour that drives by when we're out in the garden - even those we don't even know the name of. Strange? Artificial? Over the top? Gee, we only get one shot at life. Why take it so seriously? That person you smile at, wave at, laugh with, might be having a terrible day and you might just cheer them up!