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The quality of the smile

AT this moment, in every country in Europe, there are people who do not belong there wandering about with their noses in guidebooks. Some have driven over frontiers, some have flown over oceans, but all are determined to enjoy themselves. So however dire the circumstances, however tired, wet, or homesick these people may be, they always have great grins spread across their faces, bless them. As a matter of fact, it is quite easy to keep on smiling in foreign places if you do not expect them to be like home. The minute you start comparing home with abroad, you are liable to become disgruntled about something, and really the only hope of enjoying yourself thoroughly, not just in bits, is to expunge all thoughts of the mother country from your mind. This, like most things, is easier said than done, particularly if you cannot remember whether you double-locked the front door. Yet if you can drag your thoughts away from home and concentrate exclusively on the new worlds you are discovering, you will be much happier.

In Rome do as the Romans do has always been excellent advice, and it is even better if you can manage not to be surprised at what they do do. European plumbing, for example, is an old joke kept obstinately alive, and when one pulls out a plug in a foreign bath and the escaping water wells up into the washbasin and overflows, as it still does in rare instances, it is much more sensible to treat it as a novel experience rather than a calamity.

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The expectation of good at all times, while apt to give a rather Pollyannaish turn to one's conversation, is much to be desired when traveling, and if this can be coupled with a renunciation of the belief that the weather, the food, the views, the beds, and the telephone systems, not to mention the art galleries, transport facilities, and bathing beaches are far better at home, a delightful holiday can be assured.

Tourists, as I said, are nearly always smiling, but it is the quality of the smile that is all-important. The smile that covers an inner desperation, the feeling that it is unthinkable to spend all this money and not enjoy yourself; the smile supercilious that implies, ``We told you so, you can never get into a museum before 4 o'clock''; the smile distraught signaling a disbelief in the prevalence of national holidays; all these smiles are tainted with disappointment and should be abjured.

Whereas the grin that is given for the sheer enjoyment of a situation, however unexpected, bizarre, or, cataclysmic it may be, is the beam really worth cultivating.

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