I was making a cup of tea alone in the office kitchen the other day, singing to myself and doing a dadlike jig, when someone came in and I hurriedly called a halt to my fun.
It struck me afterwards, though, why I felt I had to stop. I’ve often seen kids dancing in the street while holding a parent’s hand and singing out loud is hardly a crime – you only have to watch the wonderful video of Respect on the Underground to see the joy it can bring.
What is a ‘cultural norm?’
Society places an awful lot of cultural ‘norms’ onto us that can be hard to break and expressing yourself in public is one of them.
The British reserve is well-known, but by contrast watch the reaction of Winesi whose sight was restored thanks to a cataract operation funded by Sightsavers.
It’s a lifechanging moment sure, but the spontaneous dancing is typical of many cultures in Africa that is often conspicuously absent in Western society.
I find it sad that singing and dancing, for example, are often frowned upon outside of their ‘set locations’, such as a club or a choir.
As my dad used to say, it makes you look ‘a bit touched, son’.
When flash mobs were all the rage about 5-10 years ago, most onlookers enjoyed taking part after the initial bemusement.
And physiologically, dancing and singing is good for you – it makes you feel good more than anything.
So should we encourage others to do the conga round the office? Organise a spontaneous bout of karaoke on the No.19?
Perhaps not, but allowing people to express their joy in life should be something we cherish not be churlish.