When my partner and I went to the UK for the first time, as tourists, I made an interesting observation. Once we went to Hyde Park for a walk really early in the morning and a man walking his dog said ‘Hi!’ to us. I was really surprised because it would have never happened in Russia – no matter what the time of day it is and how many people are around – you might as well be the only two on a desert island – the chances that a stranger will say ‘Hi!’ to you (or you to him) are really slim. It’s just not done.
Over the couple of years that I’ve been living in the UK I made a few more observations as to when it is appropriate to greet strangers.
Here’s an interesting illustration. A few weeks ago we went to Norfolk and walked some of the Norfolk Coast Path. We started relatively early, at about 9, and there were few people walking this path, so everyone would say ‘Hi!’ to each other. We were walking back after a few hours, between 1 and 2 pm and the number of fellow walkers was much higher, so no one bothered any more!
Today I went for a run in the park and didn’t have my headphones on as the battery on my mp3 player was flat, so suddenly all the dog walkers were saying ‘Morning!’ to me! They probably didn’t bother when I had my headphones on.
I have to say that the same principle doesn’t apply when you just walk along city streets. Somehow it’s limited to parks, public footpaths and similar places.
So, as a rule of thumb, I’d say that it’s appropriate to greet people that you happen to meet in a park or, say, on a country walk, when there are few people around, and that usually happens when it’s quite early or quite late (but maybe going for a walk in the countryside late in the evening is not always a great idea).