My parents recently traveled to Bermuda to escape the final tiring stretch of cold in Maine when the last piles of snow melt and before the crocuses appear. When they returned, I expected to hear about the friends they visited, the pleasant temperatures, the view of the ocean, the shops or museums or other sites they saw, the walks they took, or the history they learned. Though they did mention all these things, there was one other experience that lingered longer in their minds. What they appreciated most in that small corner of the world was the friendliness. In Bermuda, they told me, whenever you encounter someone as you go about your daily business, you must pause, look them in the eye and offer a simple greeting.
Early in the trip, they had failed to remember this basic cultural courtesy. They had been wandering about St. George and gotten lost so decided to approach a stranger for directions. “Can you tell us…” my mother began to inquire.
The man smiled and gently interrupted. “Good morning, how are you today? Now, won’t you greet me first before you ask your question?”
Of course, my mother immediately stopped and apologized, feeling quite chagrined. How could she forget? She wanted to apologize for coming across as yet one more harried American tourist. Though she and my father live in a state that holds claim to “the way life should be,” even in Maine it’s rare to receive a friendly acknowledgement from a stranger you pass on the street. But in that moment, none of that mattered. All the man wanted was a kind salutation. “Good morning,” she said with enthusiasm. “How are you?”
The kind of warmth they found in Bermuda could go a long way toward thawing the cold back home.