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7764: Nekita Responding to Manners (#7747; #7718) (fwd)

From: amedard@gte.net

> >...Haitians do not make direct eye contact. It is considered impolite and lack
> >of respect.
> >
> I have to differ on this one.  I realize customs vary but the Haitians I
> know make a lot more eye contact than we north americans do. Haven't you
> ever looked at a Haitian and locked eyes for a long moment then seen the
> hint of a smile, tip back of the head and a kind of jutting of the lips?  An
> eye to eye agreement.  Happens to me a LOT.

I agree with Nekita.  I have often observed this with those working in private homes
and in the "boondocks" where they have not yet been overly influenced by the 'big'
city and/or foreigners.  Henrius' observation is also common, but reminds me of "tu"
vs. "vous" ... it's a more familiar gesture.  I've seen this sometimes flirtatiously
given by a man flirting with a woman.  If it's her husband, it's fine; but if it's a
stranger - although it may not be the first intention - it's actually quite

A little story about one of my first incidents with respect to manners in Haiti:

When we first moved back to Haiti, we stayed with my mother-in-law.  Several months
later, we moved into a house across the street.  In the States, it is customary for
those already established in the neighborhood to come and introduce themselves,
welcoming the newcomers to the neighborhood.  It is also customary for those
established in the neighborhood to bring a dish to their new neighbors.  It's a sort
of welcome and also serves a practical purpose since the newcomers have yet to unpack
their cooking utensils, appliances, dishes, etc. and since they are so busy
installing themselves, that they have little time to cook & such.  Those established
in the neighborhood usually also ask if there is anything they can do to help out.

After living for so long in the States and being unfamiliar with related Haitian
customs, I expected my neighbors to come and welcome me as their new neighbor and see
if there was anything they could do to help. It would seem, however, that the Haitian
custom is for the newcomer to go to each neighbor's house, introduce themselves and
visit.  Not being familiar with this Haitian custom, I had several neighbors suddenly
become very upset with me, even though I had been to their houses several times with
my in-laws when I first moved to my in-laws' house and even though my spouse had
grown up with those same neighbors.  I could not understand why they distanced
themselves until I learned that they felt I was rejecting them.  I quickly made some
visits, after which everything was fine.