Why Russians Don’t Smile

At Automattic, it’s traditional that people give flash talks — short talks on a subject of their choosing — at the annual all-company gathering, referred to as the Grand Meetup. The last grand meetup I went to was in San Francisco/Santa Cruz in October 2013 (skipped the October 2014 in Utah because I was expecting my daughter Kira).

I had a “speaker’s block” trying to come up with a topic. I had spoken about localization in 2012, so that was out. I really love Suzette Haden Elgin’s work on communication, but had trouble translating her ideas into a flash talk — her books are so well written, one has to read them in entirety.

In the end, the idea of “why Russian people don’t smile” came to me while I tossed and turned in a hotel bed, jetlagged at 3am. I got up, excitingly jotted down the talking points, rehearsed it once or twice, then finally went back to sleep.

I remembered the video, dug it up just now on the “Automattic TV” channel, and watched it for the first time. I mumble a bit, like in real life, but overall I was (surprisingly) pleased with what I saw. If you ever wanted to know why we Russian (post-Soviets) don’t smile, watch this to find out!