In my opinion, it depends on the situation and the person (not the person that you're looking at).
If a stranger smiles at me, I might smile back depending on my mood. But I don't walk around smiling at every stranger that I make eye contact with, that'd be weird to me, I'll often just look away too.
I guess it's worth noting too that I have always lived in various states in the northeastern US where people are often considered more "cold" and "unfriendly".
@vz9002 Thank you very much. It is interesting to know that people in some states are often considered more "cold" and "unfriendly". I just had impression that people in big cities such as NY are more "unfriendly" compared to people who lives in town.
it sort of depends on where you are. i’ve mostly lived in small midwestern and southern communities, so i often smile when i make accidental eye contact. sometimes i nod or simply look away but i’ve found that smiling has been the best way to dispel some of the awkwardness (at least for me.)
@vz9002 Thank you for these links. It is very interesting to read it. Some people seem to think that people in Northwest are unfriendly, while some see them just different. Some people from the south seems to feel isolated. I once read that some American miss human contact in Japan too since Japanese don't hug much each other.
I'm a New Yorker. You pass by hundreds of strangers every day. It's okay to make eye contact, but don't smile or nod, unless you're dealing with them (like moving past them in a crowded place, or holding a door for them).
You should smile politely when dealing with people in shops. Or if you sit next to someone on the train. But not at a random person with whom you have no contact.
In the northern states you have to be careful of it. People usually would look away. You can smile, but they might wonder what your intentions are. However, the south is very different. It can be seen as rude to just look away especially if someone smiled at you. People are friendly in the south and will even say hello or wave to strangers. Young people seem to do this less, but it wouldn't be weird to smile. They would also be less offended if you just looked away. To give you a better idea of the difference. My grandma is from the north. When she came to visit in the south, we were driving down the road and a man passing by in another vehicle waved. My grandma ducked down because she thought he was getting a gun to shoot her. (She lives near Detroit, Michigan. Not all northern places are that bad).
Don't make eye contact when you're on a train or a bus. Some Americans enjoy being friendly with strangers, but not on trains or buses, because you can't get away from the other person until your ride is over.
@hornychimchim Thank you very much. You smile only with your eyes, that would be polite way to deal with eye contact, without being rude. I usually don't smile,but you make me aware that there are various ways to smile.
@palexkrupnik Thank you. The situation in New York seems to be quite different from the one in other states. I understand that smiling or nodding with random person may arise some misunderstanding in the New York. People usually don't enjoy random conversation in New York, I'd like to keep that in mind when I have chance to visit New York.
@kthackermm Thank you very much. Your grandma's story is interesting. grandma had never seen a man who was waving from another vehicle! People in the south seems to be close to the impression that I have ; smile to randam person, start conversation with them, and enjoy it. I think I have to behave differently according to the city I visit in the USA :)
@palexkrupnik I'm glad to hear that. Small talk or smile would make me happy all the more when I am in New York because I know no one there. I would like to understand New Yorkers well by visiting New York some day :)
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