Expression of emotions in the Eimai Archipelago
One could easily mistake their expressions for indifference and think that they have a different physiology from the rest of humans. However, a careful observation shows that they can indeed smile, although they most certainly do so at different times and possibly for different reasons than most other cultures.In the eimaui culture, certain kinds of facial expressions are only acceptable in private settings, mainly with friends, family or one's partner. For this reason, they often seem to be emotionless, when in reality they just have other ways of expressing their feelings.
The emotionful age
Children below five years old are considered to be in their emotionful age, which means that they are not required to keep a relaxed face in public. However, parents and educators are expected to raise them so that when they turn five years old, they start expressing their emotions as an adult.
Relaxed face, expressive brows.
ReasoningContrary to popular beliefs, the eimaii are not actually emotionless and experience their feelings as anybody else, albeit in a different manner, depending on who is around them. They use the so-called Three Circles of Formality, a defining feature of their language and culture: private, limited private or situational, and public. The three circles are concentrical, meaning that everything associated with the public circle is also applied to the private one.
This is why we hide our feelings and avoid physical contact, Beskra. In doing so, the smiles of our loved ones are a rare and priced gift. Smiles are beautiful and special, so we save them for those who are special to us.The eimaii consider emotional expressions the highest form of intimacy. Nothing is more valuable than a smile from a loved one, and nothing is more offensive than a scowl from a stranger. This is deeply rooted in their religious beliefs, although now everyone follows this tradition, no matter what their beliefs are. According to their animist beliefs, which go back to before the discovery of the Archipelago, one should avoid externalizing too much their feelings, since they are to humans what sap is to trees. Some scholars theorize that this line, which is not actually written anywhere but part of popular culture, is in fact misinterpreted and that it just means that feelings are what gives energy to humans, not that letting them out is dangerous. Other scholars, mostly from foreign countries, have a different theory, claiming that they keep their faces expressionless because of the extremely cold climate of the Archipelago. According to these theories, extreme cold makes it more difficult to smile or move other parts of the face. After some generations, this purely practical reason would have been integrated into their culture to the extent of creating a taboo.
Strange folk, those northerners, always looking at you as if they were more important. Like, can't they just smile? Not even a little bit?Emotional expressions can be classified into six categories, detailed below. All of them are acceptable in the private circle.
EyebrowsEyebrows are by far the most expressive part of the body in public. They are used to express surprise and disbelief, among other emotions. Slightly raising both eyebrows is used as the public version of smiles, while pointedly frowning them is the equivalent of wrinkling your nose in disgust.
EyesEyes can be used in limited private circles in different ways, such as rolling them to express exasperation or closing them while breathing soundly to indicate that you are losing your patience. While they are generally not used in public circles, their usage is not frowned upon.
NoseUsing your nose to express any kind of feeling is completely forbidden in both public and limited private circles. Doing it in front of other people is almost considered an insult and a violation of one's privacy, especially among adults.
MouthExpressions involving your mouth, such as smiling, are allowed in limited private spaces as long as they are subtle. Subtle means that only the corners of the mouth move and the lips are kept closed.
ShouldersShoulders, together with any other body part, can be used to express any emotion in any kind of situation. Some examples include shrugging or sighing.
Spontaneous expressionsExpressions such as laughing or crying are difficult to contain, so, while they should be kept to private circles as much as possible, they are not considered a sign of disrespect as long as the person is trying to contain them. A common way of containing these expressions is trying to keep your mouth shut while using your hand to hide it.
|Category of expression||Public circle||Limited private/
|Mouth||Unacceptable||Acceptable (with limits)||Acceptable|
|Shoulders and body||Acceptable||Acceptable||Acceptable|
Acceptance of foreigners and variationSince the discovery of the Archipelago, Eimai has been steadily receiving immigrants from all around the world, especially from the Circle of Skafrontse. Most other cultures in Einya don't share this way of expressing emotions, which means that the eimaui people are now used to foreigners smiling broadly in public. Immigrants are not forced to learn this part of the culture, but most of them end up being influenced, especially in the parts that are considered unacceptable in public. It's worth noting that, because of the geography of the Archipelago, there are cultural differences between islands. This tradition is not equally observed throughout the Archipelago: northern islands tend to be stricter, while southern islands are more flexible (although they still constitute a huge cultural wall for foreigners). In stricter islands, the limited private circle tends to be erased, completely disappearing in some cases. On the other hand, more flexible cultures tend to integrate spontaneous expressions in the limited private circle and quiet rare smiles in the public circle.
Illustration of the Three Circles of Formality