Travel and how the Smile is the one and only, tried-and-true, international language.

Whatever the language of a country or the languages that you speak may be, the smile is globally well received.

One of the great opportunities that being a successful business owner has afforded me is the ability to travel internationally. I often travel not only for business purposes but also for reunions, leisure, or vacations with friends and family. The photo, here to the left, is a picture snapped during my current trip to Korea. Although I do not speak the language, this happy group photo was made possible because the smile is and always will be an internationally understood gesture. Whatever the local language, culture, or practices may be, the smile is a global symbol understood by people everywhere. More than just an expression of joy and positive emotion, the smile brings people together even when they speak different languages. There’s also a lot to smile about when it comes to the growth of dry-cleaning in South Korea.

According to Statista, total revenue for the South Korean home and laundry care market (for 2024 alone) is US$3.28bn. Growing at an annual growth rate of 2.99%, the per capita revenue generated per person in South Korea is US$63.47 in 2024. Globally, for this market segment in 2024, the US generates the highest revenue at US$32,170m. Consumers in South Korea however are driving their market towards sustainability because of their increasing love of eco-friendly and natural laundry care products. Why is this important? Increases in economic growth, opportunities, and eco-friendliness for a healthier planet, all equate to more smiles. When’s the last time you smiled? How often do you smile?

My trip to Korea and this photo were made possible because I’m endlessly learning and experiencing other cultures, new environments, meeting new people, and open to spiritual and intellectual exchanges across the language barrier so often found in the world. So, remember, when you don’t quite have the right word to express a thought, the correct translation, or the ability to string a sentence together that resonates properly, that facial expressions (especially a smile) are the most ancient and effective means of communication.

It is in our nature to trust a true and genuine smile. Why? An authentic smile makes everyone around you comfortable; it can be felt, it can put people at ease, and it often opens the door for someone to meet you halfway. Especially if you are in a foreign country, a smile could make all the difference in someone attempting to speak English with you just as you attempt to speak their language!

Whether it’s during your travels or on stage during a business presentation, a smile is an expression of recognition, approval, and many other traits that human beings love because it’s positive reinforcement. Think of all the animals found in nature that still prefer this mode of communication over words! They must know something we don’t…

Jokes aside, my trip to South Korea has been a phenomenal experience from a personal and business perspective. It’s been such a successful trip and a bright reminder that you’re never alone in the world (even if you’re in a faraway land). In fact, being away from hope reminds me that I can find love, joy, smiles, engage in an exchange of emotions and ideas, explore new cultures or ways of doing things, and share novel experiences no matter the country I’m adventuring in. Seek out cultures and countries that are different than your own and don’t let a lack of speaking the language hold you back. You can always have a smile tucked away in your back pocket, ready to be pulled out in a flash!

5 Ways a smile can help you out when you’re traveling:

  1. A smile shows a good nature and positive intent even if you’re messing up in a foreign language, as you give it your all with broken sentence structure and ill placed vocal inflection. A local may be more apt to assist you with your limited vocabulary if they get the sense that you’re friendly, open, and eager to learn while outside of your comfort zone. 
  2. Smiles bring people together. It may be for a selfie like this one or another interesting photo op but the more that you smile and the more that people around you are smiling, then the easier it is for a group of individuals to come together. If energy is infectious then a smile is the spark that lights the match.
  3. A smile not only lights up a face, but it also allows for a joy of spirit to be expressed. You could be smiling on the inside. Yes, this is a possibility. However, if you don’t express that inner spirit outwardly with a smile than who else gets to experience your inner joy outside of you? Project outwardly with a smile because you never know who might need to smile that day or who’s in need of a positive connection.
  4. It takes confidence to smile authentically. A genuine, authentic, and heartfelt smile communicates a lot of things: confidence, openness, ease, friendliness, and approachability (to name just a few).  All these traits come in handy when you’re traveling internationally and out of your element, so express them in the most efficient way possible: with a smile.
  5. Even infants know that when it comes to the two most fundamental expressions: you’re either crying or you’re smiling (sometimes both, at the same time). If your choice is: either a positive or a negative charge, then go with the positive. You”ll pull more people towards you instead of pushing them away. Traveling internationally can be difficult (especially if you’re a stranger to: culture, norms, etiquette, language, and don’t yet have your bearings figured out) so connecting with as many people as possible for help can only lead to a good thing.
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