Smile, Bus Uncle, it's World Cup season.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon ~ SHY Ventures
Wednesday, 14th June 2006
There's no escape from ball madness, an angry uncle and fake smiles, says Yeoh Siew Hoon.

Well, I guess there is no escaping the fever.

Even at 30,000 feet, I cannot run away from the World Cup madness that is sweeping the globe.

Among its inflight movies this month, Singapore Airlines is screening two movies about soccer – Goal! And The Game of Their Lives – and its inflight magazine has a long article about World Cup city Frankfurt.

I now know they are playing 64 World Cup matches in 12 cities and six million tourists will visit Germany over the World Cup period and three million fans will be watching the games live while roughly half the world's population will watch it at home, in bars, at community centres, in mosques (in Singapore, some mosques have organised special screenings), in bathrooms and really anywhere you can fit a television.

I know more about Wayne Rooney's right foot than my own. I have learnt about the difficult lives soccer wives have while their husbands are off twirling their balls or whatever they do when playing soccer. I also know that the best player by a mile is Ronaldinho although some people think he's gotten too roly-poly to chase after a ball but then that's what they said about Pele before he won the third World Cup for Brazil in 1970.

Off-pitch, the betting is ferocious. According to the Chinese pundits, who have a way with numbers, Brazil is tipped to win. This of course could just be a rumour started by a bookie who could stand to make millions if Brazil does not take home the Holy Cup.

In Hong Kong, schools are extremely concerned because a survey has found that kids would rather watch the soccer matches than do their homework. And they need a survey to tell them that?

Also making the news in Hong Kong is the "Bus Uncle". For those who have not been following the saga, the "Bus Uncle" shot to notoriety after a young man took a video of him berating a passenger and posted it on You Tube ( http://youtube.com/watch?v=EsYRQkmVifg ).

The video made the rounds on the Internet, the media tracked down the uncle who had no idea of his fame because he does not have a computer or television and his boss who runs a restaurant suddenly finds his outlet packed with people who want to meet the uncle and now there are rumours that perhaps the boss cooked up the whole incident to save his flagging business and wait, the boss' wife then tried to kill herself because she felt bad about the alleged exploitation of the uncle.

So in addition to the World Cup, this soap opera is keeping Hong Kongers glued to their TV and computer screens.

Meanwhile, I will also be taking most of September off because I will be busy smiling. You see, the Singapore government is asking all four million of us who live there to put on our best smiles when the IMF show comes to town.

Called the "Four Million Smiles" campaign (naturally), it aims to showcase "the human face and the human touch" of Singaporeans to the 16,000 delegates and visitors expected to descend on the city over eight days.

The campaign calls for us to submit photographs of ourselves – smiling of course – via the Four Million Smiles website ( www.smileS2006.com ) and "Smiles ambassadors" will be placed strategically at various points throughout the city to snap happy pictures of Singaporeans.

Thing is, there are smiles and there are smiles and apparently, just as we are good at faking many things (women especially), we are also good at faking smiles.

According to a news item I read on BBC, "Fake smiles can be performed at will, because the brain signals that create them come from the conscious part of the brain and prompt the zygomaticus major muscles in the cheeks to contract. These are the muscles that pull the corners of the mouth outwards.

"Genuine smiles, on the other hand, are generated by the unconscious brain, so are automatic. When people feel pleasure, signals pass through the part of the brain that processes emotion. As well as making the mouth muscles move, the muscles that raise the cheeks – the orbicularis oculi and the pars orbitalis – also contract, making the eyes crease up, and the eyebrows dip slightly."

So how do you tell the difference between a fake and genuine smile? "Lines around the eyes do sometimes appear in intense fake smiles, and the cheeks may bunch up, making it look as if the eyes are contracting and the smile is genuine. But there are a few key signs that distinguish these smiles from real ones. For example, when a smile is genuine, the eye cover fold - the fleshy part of the eye between the eyebrow and the eyelid - moves downwards and the end of the eyebrows dip slightly."

To test how good you are at spotting the fake or genuine smile, I recommend taking the smile detector test at www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/mind/surveys/smiles

I got 13 out of 20 correct which makes me a slightly above average smile-spotter but it also means I need a lot more practice which I will be getting in September.

I think this smile detector test could also come in handy for the hotel industry.  It could be used to pre-qualify job candidates or to train staff to get better at faking it.

The SHY Report
A regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry by one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, Yeoh Siew Hoon.

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her company's mission is "Content, Communication, Connection".

She is a writer, speaker, facilitator, trainer and events producer. She is also an author, having published "Around Asia In 1 Hr: Tales of Condoms, Chillies & Curries". Her motto is ‘free to do, and be'.

Contacts: Tel: 65-63424934, Mobile: 65-96801460

Check out Siew Hoon's new website, www.shy-connection.com, which features a newly-launched e-zine with a difference.

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