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Is it currently a social taboo to say ''hello'' to strangers ?

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posted on Aug, 14 2010 @ 05:49 PM
I'm interested in people's opinions on this trend, which I seem to be noticing more often lately.

It may be different for people who live in a rural community or a smaller town, but certainly in the city I live in, I've noticed that it's ''not the done thing'' to talk to, or to acknowledge, a stranger without reason.

What I've noticed also is that on the odd occasion that a stranger does say ''hello'' to me, they are invariably from the older generation, which leads me to believe that acknowledging people in this way was more commonplace in the not so distant past.

I experimented recently by greeting people that I passed in the street with a friendly ''hello'' or ''good morning !''.
The responses I got ranged from totally ignoring me, awkward smiles and suspicion, to fear and outright hostility !

It's true that there were a lot of people that reciprocated my greeting with a smile and a ''good morning !'', but the other most common responses that I got were the ''do I know you ?'' look, and a general air of ''what's he up to ?''.

So, why are people so suspicious of, or uncomfortable with, a stranger saying ''hello'' ?

Maybe you haven't noticed this at all.

I live in Britain, so this attitude may vary from country to country, and maybe it doesn't come across as a social taboo in the country that you live in.

My personal opinion is that many people are just fearful and cynical towards any person that they aren't acquainted with ( with the help of media scare tactics ), so they assume that somebody talking to them in a friendly manner has an ulterior motive for doing so.

I also believe that a lot of modern technology isolates us and gives us an unreal sense of a ''world of our own'' or comfort zone - cellphones, i-pods etc. - where you can blot out just about everything - even in the busiest city.

So when someone breaks into that comfort zone, we automatically go on the defensive and subconsciously view that person as an aggressor.

There may well be some other reasons for this, so I would be interested to get some input from other people on this subject.

I personally think it's a shame that any harmless act of politeness or friendliness is frowned upon as a taboo.

posted on Aug, 14 2010 @ 06:00 PM
Context is key, I believe. Not every situation in life where you encounter others requires a "hello", IMO. For some people this is not wanted. On this principle is why I choose a glance and a smile. This extends the courtesy but others need not reciprocate. Call me a social moron, what do I know?

posted on Aug, 14 2010 @ 06:07 PM
Reply to post by Sherlock Holmes

I think you're 'spot on'. through isolating each one of us in our own world we feel the need to protect and sustain it (call it "survival"). but flock-type creatures usually rely on eachother consciously and subconsciously.

Posted Via ATS Mobile:

posted on Aug, 14 2010 @ 06:08 PM
true my friend,in some countryes like ukraine,people will hate you if you dont say hello to them on the street on a morning,everyone does it there.
but afcourse were too busy listening to ipods. and once we runned to some bully on the street we think all people are like that

posted on Aug, 14 2010 @ 06:08 PM
reply to post by Sherlock Holmes

I understand wherfe you are coming from. We are living in a state of media-induced terror. We are literally afraid of living. It is in someone's interest to keep us in our own cages and in fear of our neighbours. I f we truly understood risk in context we would behave differently.

posted on Aug, 14 2010 @ 06:09 PM
In the US random hellos and conversations are pretty common although less so in larger northern cities and more common in the south and midwest. Having been lots of places around the world it seems that saying hello to strangers is more prevaiant in the US then anywear esle.

posted on Aug, 14 2010 @ 06:11 PM
reply to post by The Endtime Warrior

Thank you for your reply.

I agree that context is important.

You say ''a glance and a smile''; I would include that in the taboo of acknowledging a stranger.

Although I titled this thread as saying ''hello'' to a stranger, I probably should have put more explicitly that I am referring to any kind of friendly acknowledgement between strangers.

Certainly, smiling at strangers in my city would get me equally as varied responses as I would by greeting them verbally.

posted on Aug, 14 2010 @ 06:13 PM
reply to post by Sherlock Holmes

Correct. And one person's smile is another person's grin. I should know better. All my life people are always asking me what I am up to, I guess, because I have a smile on my face.

[edit on 8/14/2010 by The Endtime Warrior]

posted on Aug, 14 2010 @ 06:16 PM
I think it's partly an effect of modern urbanisation.
There are so many people around that the social response gets muted or deadened, as a defence mechanism. If you walked around a big metropolis greeting everybody you met, you would never stop.

On the other hand, if you go walking in lonelier areas. like the high fells of the Lake District, it still seems obligatory to greet everyone you pass.

posted on Aug, 14 2010 @ 06:18 PM
Recently I was at Target and bought a 2 pack of Hot Wheels Mainline Cars for one car and walked up to 2 parents and tried to give them the car I didn't want and detected a sense of hostility and got the feeling like I had just robbed them or something (I do not rob from people), it was weird. I couldn't use the other car so I figured why not spread the fun to someone else.

People nowadays are being unfortuately taught that the mere act of kindness is to be taken as an attack or intrusion which usually makes people put thier guard up in defense. Mere acts of charity are to be taken as a personal strike and not for what it truly is, a decent, honest attempt at humanity or compassion from another is not allowed.

Very few people out there are actually trying to keep thier humanity prevealant in all people's lives so that everyone doesn't step on one another as that is wrong.

Back as late as the 1990's it was all about helping out your fellow man.

posted on Aug, 14 2010 @ 06:19 PM
I live in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia and I have noticed an interesting phenomenon regarding this.

In the 'burbs saying "Hello" isn't that common, but a casual wave is almost compulsory. Everybody raises their hand to wave here. It's a mindless half-gesture most of the time but it is an effort.

As one moves closer to the city (about fifteen miles as the crow flies I think) the waving becomes less and less frequent. At the city limits it stops totally and you begin to notice that almost every single human being is in their own kind of "safe space", eyes down and slightly forward, rapidly walking, and not making eye contact with any other human beings. Once you get all the way downtown just about the only people who will make eye contact or speak are panhandlers and drug dealers.

My thought is that population density might have an effect on this. In the suburbs I have plenty of time to watch people as they approach and to "size them up" so to speak. I can get a feel for how aggressive they seem to be. In the city it's a constant flow of people and there's scarcely enough time to even register a person before they've already passed. I think this factors into the dynamic you are talking about.

Thanks for the post! Very interesting stuff.

posted on Aug, 14 2010 @ 06:21 PM
reply to post by Tiger5

Sadly, you are correct.
Our governments play us against each other, and we do all the hard work for them.
If only we ''the people'' truly realised our strength is in our unity !

MrSpad and Stillalive...

This is what I thought, that there would be widespread differences in attitudes to this between nations and cultures.

I was under the impression that Americans are still more likely to be polite in this way than we are back in Britain.

I still like the way that it's common in the USA to call another man ''sir'' and a woman ''ma'am'' !

Sadly, that politeness has largely fallen out of the vernacular in day-to-day communication in the UK.

[edit on 14-8-2010 by Sherlock Holmes]

posted on Aug, 14 2010 @ 06:30 PM
i don.t think that it is a taboo, but depending on situation, maybe country and other circumstances.

i am from germany and it is a strange thing here, that when walking in parks or woods people say "hello" to each other every time they meet. a hello and a smile to a complrete stranger they wouldn.t evennotice when it happens in the city.

people in smaller cities or villages are much more open minded in that case than people in big cities like berlin or munich.

people living in villiages in northern germany usually say "moin" to each other as well as to strangers - kind of "hello" adapted from bidding "good morning".

people in westfalia and bavaria seem to have problems with strangers.

so you only can say it depends

and i guess it is part of the personality. some people just smile much more easily than others and those migh much easier say "hello"

so hello to you

posted on Aug, 14 2010 @ 06:42 PM
reply to post by Hefficide

Don't forget the 'catch the eye and nod slightly" form of greeting. This form of stranger acknowledgement works esp. for older males, but I have used it on younger folk too. I think it also matters where in the city you are. If you are in a residential neighborhood, I think it is far more common than in a busy business section. There is also a much higher likely hood of a friendly acknowledgement and response between people you have at least a visual acquantincement (such as neighbors or people on your same route to work).

There are so many strangers in our lives these days, which is very different from how the majority of humans have lived in small tribal/village groupings. I think there is a undercurrent of stranger anxiety, which raises and lowers depending on circumstance. It is also more likely to be conducted if there is any sort of "sameness" or "akinness"; for example, at a festival and you see someone w/ a similar outfit or some other point of commonality.

posted on Aug, 14 2010 @ 06:42 PM
Also don't think it's taboo . . . However, I definately notice and get the same reactions you've encountered. People don't seem to want to be bothered or acknowledged in any way these days. I've talked about this with friends from time to time, whether in reference to recent trips we've taken or even in the workplace.

I've always been a big fan of the overpopulation reasoning, myself. However, I think how the media feeds us fear is what fuels the fire.

Here's a link on Behavioral Sink . . . It's basically what behavioral changes take place in the individual, as population density increases. You can definitely see the correlation between the rat behavior and modern day "hospitality".

Behavioral Sink - Wiki

posted on Aug, 14 2010 @ 06:43 PM
I notice here in Memphis TN in the USA a simple nod is more common. Although I do notice my neighbors in my apartments generally don't acknowledge each other at all. Kinda sad really. I lady who lives upstairs from me pretty much ran in fear of me because we got home around the same time and were walking in the same direction. I understand being on the lookout for danger, you really can never be to careful but it kinda hurt a bit. She had seen me walking with my wife, on my porch grilling and going to check the mail. Been there over a year as well, it's not like i'm a new face or someone scary. Oh well.

posted on Aug, 14 2010 @ 06:44 PM
I totally recognize this. I've got to add. Since I started high school, everything got less respectful and more violent. My view on day to day life changed significantly.

On topic. With is it's regional bound. Usually up north, south and the east people are friendlier interacting with each other.

The center and west it is a lot less. But... these are also the biggest populated area's.


Saying hello could differ city from city.

I personally say hello and smile, or smile always. With my work, I travel to and from every corner of my country. I say hello a lot.

posted on Aug, 14 2010 @ 06:48 PM
DISRAELI and orange-light...

You raise a good point in mentioning how the attitude changes in the countryside, parks or more sparsely populated areas.

Greeting a stranger is more frequent in these areas, but even in these areas in and around my city, it's much more common for people to completely blank you.

I've also noticed that strangers are much more likely to acknowledge each other if they have something in common ( like both of them are walking dogs or wearing the same club's football shirt ).

While this isn't exactly an earth-shattering observation, it also leads me to wonder whether some people avoid saying ''hello'' because they are worried about having to follow it up by making awkward ''small talk''.

If you have something obviously in common, then small talk becomes much more easy and less awkward.

posted on Aug, 14 2010 @ 06:49 PM
Being from the UK I think personally it depends on your own age and the person you're greeting's age.

I've found through my teens that I was indeed catagorized into the 'troublemaker' cliche. Even though I was well educated and by all means a good girl. It's all about social attitudes and your upbringing. The town I come from, the people here are hostile, because that's simply how they've been brought up.

Here there's a lot of people on benefits, lots of people who spend all day in the pub, typical 'doll dossers' and layabouts, and if I'm honest, I don't even look at them let alone greet them. I'd be scared to nod incase someone got the wrong idea and thought I was a threat, the last thing i need is the local 'we're teenagers and we don't care if we get asbos' gang turning up on my doorstep causing a riot.

[edit on 14/8/10 by stefplz]

posted on Aug, 14 2010 @ 06:49 PM

Originally posted by orange-light
"i don.t think that it is a taboo, but depending on situation, maybe country and other circumstances.

i am from germany and it is a strange thing here, that when walking in parks or woods people say "hello" to each other every time they meet. a hello and a smile to a complrete stranger they wouldn.t evennotice when it happens in the city."

That is an interesting observation. In the US too, we are more likely to greet a stranger at a vacation destination, in the woods hiking, etc. Perhaps it is as simple as being more relaxed (which doesn't generally happen walking in a city), and there simply being too many strangers around to greet (then, it would get even weirder as you greet some strangers and not others). While if there is one person walking towards you on a hiking trial, it seems much more odd to not acknowledge them in some way.

For the real old timers, the quick tip of the hat has great appeal, and so does the "head nod, hands in prayer" posture of a non-verbal thank you as you make your way through life.

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