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With A Smile, Africa Says Hello

By Nonso Egbo
31 October 2021   |   6:48 am
If I have ever seen magic, it has been in Africa Smiling is a cross-cultural language that means a lot to an African. A magical expression, it is not only by Africans alone but by humanity. Smiling reduces stress, helps the heart’s health, lower blood pressure, and boosts your immune system by decreasing cortisol in…

A smile warms its way into the heart | Shutterstock

If I have ever seen magic, it has been in Africa

Smiling is a cross-cultural language that means a lot to an African. A magical expression, it is not only by Africans alone but by humanity. Smiling reduces stress, helps the heart’s health, lower blood pressure, and boosts your immune system by decreasing cortisol in the body. This is why a simple smile, genuine or even forced, prompts the brain to produce endorphins and serotonin, causing positive emotions. When you smile, your brain releases tiny molecules called neuropeptides to help fight off stress, thereby helping to release serotonin and endorphins that help to relieve pain and acts as an anti-depressant as well.

However, smiling comes naturally to an African and does a lot of magic and healing. For some, a smile means acceptance, love, agreement, among many others. Its meaning usually depends on the circumstance and occasion. It costs nothing to smile, but it is worth a lot. 

Smiling is a common culture in Africa. People smile whether they are confused, happy, sad or angry, some reserve smiles for family members and close friends, while others share and communicate and enjoy smiling freely even with everyone, including strangers. These are what make Africa unique in their smile.

In some African cultures, smiles precede greetings and the depth of a smile tells how much one is welcome into a home.

In some African settings, a smile is well known as a peace broker. After resolving disputes with talks, the chiefs or the traditional authorities normally ask the disputing factions to shake hands and smile at each other and when this is done, it is believed that all hearts will begin to heal naturally, though slowly, leading to a peaceful resolution of the dispute. 

An adult who fails to return a smile or smile when he or she is not supposed to, in some African societies, is considered a misfit.

A smile is one of the tools that defines us as Africans. This is what makes us hospitable. Africans are noted for warm smiles. They are always smiling, whether sad, happy or hungry, and it is said that their smiles give hope.

One major group of people who use the power of a smile in Africa is people in the informal sector, especially traders and people in Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises. You cannot survive in this business if you don’t have the skill of displaying ‘sweet’ smiles. Even children who help their parents in their various businesses have also learnt this craft of smile in order to attract customers. With their sweet smiles and conviction, they make it very difficult for buyers to choose who to buy from. In some cases, their smiles make buyers embark on purchases they did not plan to do.

Overtime, some young African guys are employing the smiling skill to woo girls and one of their tricks is to give a broad smile to a girl walking towards them while maintaining an eye contact and this, according to them, works more like magic.

A notable experience of the rich culture of an African smile always meets us when we dress in beautiful or uncommon attires. With each face or eye one meets at this point, such a person is being blessed with free gifts of African smiles. And for them, these are valued ways of life and an important aspect of the African culture and nothing can stop them from smiling countless times in a day to people they come across.

A smile is the commonest language on the continent, and an important uniting feature. Giving a smile might seem so simple, but required some art if one wants to communicate suitably. 

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