Today, walking through the streets of Udaipur, India, I was thinking about the challenges created by the many different languages in the world. The most basic things can be very difficult when you don’t speak the language, and the smallest word change can create a very different meaning and lead to issues. As I was thinking about what impact miscommunications have likely had on global development, I came across an older gentleman sitting outside his store who seemed to be in a bad mood.

I smiled at him, and he immediately responded with this amazing smile. At that moment, it dawned on me that a smile is truly an international language. Many facial expressions, hand movements, and body languages can be interpreted differently in different cultures, but a smile is always an act of kindness and a way to say ‘hello’ in any language.

I have been places, such as China or New York City, where people look at me like I have three heads when I smile at them, but if I hold my ground and keep the smile on my face, they always give in and smile back. It is a good feeling to make them smile, as I can tell by the look on their face that they were touched that someone was so determined to be pleasant.

Traveling is full of challenges, but if you greet people with a genuine smile, and maybe a small nod of your head, you will be amazed how far people will go to assist you. I challenge you to try it today, no matter where you are. Smile at everyone you come across. I guarantee it will make you and them have a better day.

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