A Theory on Politeness // Tapioca Pearls with Coconut Milk

A man’s manners are a mirror in which he shows his portrait.

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Before diving into my little ramble on politeness, please let me stress that I am not generalising the opinions of the entire Spanish population. Indeed not. This only refers to that teeny weeny percentage of the population to whom I rudely interrupted in the middle of their conversations on politeness. You see, during the last few years I have arrived in the middle of too many conversations that say that the English are extremely rude because they are polite.

Please allow me to explain. Spanish people are usually a cheerful bunch, though it’s usually when they feel like it. Spanish people are always up for a joke, fiestas and laughs. When they feel like it, to their friends and family. They think that if a shopkeeper is polite to you, it can only mean that because they don’t know you personally, they really do not like you and therefore they only pretend to be polite, when in actual fact they feel like being rude. Therefore it’s being double rude because they are not showing their real feelings. It’s as if they were lying.

This idea is too labyrinthine for me.

I have also worked in retail pharmacy in the UK, which means I have also had to be falsely polite (as some might say). My opinion on politeness is just the opposite. I believe that when we smile and are nice to somebody, then that person will feel happy and want to smile back. They will walk away with a warm, fuzzy feeling and will want to smile and be nice to the next person they meet. You yourself will also feel happy and want to smile to the next person you meet.

On the contrary, if you are rude to someone, they will not feel good. Even if they are polite enough to keep their calm and smile back, inside they will probably feel down. They will walk away with their head swarming in an invisible grey cloud, and so they may not naturally smile to the next person they meet. You yourself will also feel grouchy and will probably not smile to the next person you meet.

My theory is that both politeness and rudeness are contagious. My theory deepens into the hypothesis that because politeness is a more powerful and positive trait than rudeness, then politeness is even more contagious than rudeness.

What is your theory on politeness?

Tapioca pearls with coconut

Last year my mum gave me some tapioca pearls. For a long time I didn’t know what to do with them because I thought they were some kind of magical ingredient that would require some extremely complicated preparations. After I had a quick look through some recipes, I realised that using tapioca pearls is actually really easy. This recipe of tapioca pearls with coconut milk is probably very basic within the tapioca pearl world.


3/4 cup tapioca pearls, 1 can coconut milk, 50g palm sugar, water

Place the tapioca pearls in a large pot. Add water until they are covered. Soak for about 15 minutes. After soaking, heat the pot. Add the coconut milk and about half a cup more of water. Bring to boil while stirring. Lower the heat. Add the palm sugar and stir until it dissolves.

It can be served either hot or cold.

Thank you for reading!

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  1. Mj 2014-06-02 at 20:28

    The tapioca pearls w/ coconut milk looks yummy! I love coconut milk. I also agree with you – when you smile and are polite to someone, it sends a positive nonverbal message and that person will be more inclined to do the same and feel good that someone else brightened their day with a smile. If someone is rude to me, I always feel bad and have to work hard to shrug it off!

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-06-03 at 17:29

      We know it shouldn’t get to us!! But yes, unfortunately I usually feel bad too though I try to shrug it off!
      Coconut milk is gorgeous isn’t it? 🙂

  2. Cindy 2014-06-02 at 21:37

    I’m of the if you are polite and smile that will rub off on to others group. I’m always irritated when someone is rude to you for no reason other than they may be having a bad day.
    I love tapioca. My son became obsessed with tapioca when he learned of the cassava plant in school. He begged and begged for me to make some 😀 This looks so creamy!

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-06-03 at 17:30

      I agree, just because someone has a bad day doesn’t mean they need to make the rest feel bad, it’s all a question of attitude.
      How sweet of your son. Did you make his some? 🙂

      1. Cindy 2014-06-04 at 04:35

        Haha, yes I did. He wouldn’t stop asking until I finally have in. He loves it!

  3. eleieleika 2014-06-02 at 22:23

    Wow… neither I knew how to prepare it when I gave it you, now …. I know, Merci … 🙂

  4. eleieleika 2014-06-02 at 22:28

    Oh…. about politeness and rudeness…, you know very well my theory regarding those… besos <3

  5. Guillermina Bósquez Stover 2014-06-02 at 23:47

    Being polite is something I learned at my mother’s breast! Of course, I am Mexicana. And I didn’t know about the false politeness of Spaniards! And I agree wholeheartedly with you, because when you say cheerfully “hello” to a stranger plus you say his or her name, watch for the glow on his/her face! It never fails. I use it especially at a store where the checkers or cashiers have their name tag on. They become more customer friendly!

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-06-03 at 17:33

      Well lets say that they don’t like “false” politeness so they prefer to be grumpy when they don’t feel like being polite. Anyway, I think people are a lot merrier in Andalucia. Remember, I live in Barcelona, and I notice people aren’t so naturally cheerful as when I go down south. It’s true what you say, when I worked as a pharmacist I had a name badge and would be surprised if someone said my name because they were being nice. Other times they were trying to look at my name, but my hair (which was a lot longer then) would be covering it…

  6. maamej 2014-06-03 at 00:00

    I’m a big tapioca fan, though I haven’t seen a ‘soak first’ recipe before.
    As for smiles being contagious, generally I agree with you, although if it seems fake I don’t like it. I believe there is some research though that smiling more actually has some physiological effect on the brain that does make you feel better – and more likely to keep smiling. Also of course smiling a lot means you end up with more attractive wrinkles as you age 😉

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-06-03 at 12:43

      Actually the first time I ever made tapioca pearls I didn’t soak them and they all sort of all stuck together. Then again, maybe it was because I didn’t add enough liquid. This time they were nicely separated, so it looks like the soak first method is what suits me.
      Wrinkles due to smiling are way more attractive than wrinkles due to frowning 😉

      1. maamej 2014-06-03 at 12:50

        🙂 I think lots of water is the secret of cooking without soaking. But you have to be careful not to overcook, too. Tricky things.

          1. maamej 2014-06-03 at 12:53

            Oh I think it has a mind of its own.

  7. Bunny Eats Design 2014-06-03 at 01:02

    Kindness and manners will never be unattractive. They might go out of style though.

    Kindness is contagious. I don’t know if politeness is though. I’ve been polite to rude people.

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-06-03 at 17:34

      Lets hope they don’t go out of style, I think they contribute to elegantness 😉

  8. laurasmess 2014-06-03 at 02:07

    This is so, so interesting Sofia! I never would’ve thought that the Spanish would interpret politeness as being doubly rude! I guess there is some truth in the fact that (particularly as professionals) politeness can occasionally be ‘false’ or ‘forced’ despite not liking someone. But I completely agree with you, it’s better to be polite and to demonstrate respect, even if someone is ridiculously rude, as it won’t inflame the situation or make you do something that you later regret! Anyway, I am glad that you’ve ‘rudely interrupted’ and corrected some of these misconceptions as most of us who grew up in England or English colonies are just bred to be polite 🙂 And I definitely feel that for me, I’m demonstrating respect through my politeness.
    Anyway, back to this gorgeous tapioca pudding. I’ve only eaten it a couple of times when at Chinese restaurants but it’s rather delicious! Your homemade version looks so creamy, plump and wonderful. Lovely photos, too… I love seeing the translucent quality they have when cooked! xxx

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-06-03 at 17:36

      I was also brought up in the English colonies and bred to be polite, so for me it’s normal, being polite just helps make the world a nicer place. That’s why I always “rudely” interrupt when I hear these things.
      This tapioca pearl pudding WAS gorgeous, and so easy too! xx

  9. Dalo 2013 2014-06-03 at 05:04

    You say it so well Sofia, “both politeness and rudeness are contagious” so sharing a smile with a stranger is great for all. A smile will make the ‘giver’ feel better and receiving a warm smile, as most people know, cannot help but feel good inside.

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-06-03 at 17:39

      Sometimes when I smile to strangers I can see the look of bewilderment (or fright, haha) on their faces… people aren’t used to receiving a bit of cheer maybe! But I bet they then feel good inside. You can try it tomorrow 😉

      1. Dalo 2013 2014-06-04 at 03:12

        That is funny, and I agree…sometimes people simply do not expect a smile and they are bewildered… Hopefully it has a good result. Cheers!

  10. Patty Nguyen 2014-06-03 at 06:58

    I love tapioca and I love coconut milk. I have both ingredients in my pantry so I’ll be trying your recipe soon, Sofia!

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-06-03 at 17:39

      If you don’t have palm sugar, I bet normal sugar would make an equally great substitute! xx

      1. Patty Nguyen 2014-06-04 at 20:27

        I was thinking about this recipe all day yesterday. Graduation is tonight and my last day of teaching is tomorrow, so I shall be making this soon!

          1. Patty Nguyen 2014-06-04 at 20:38

            No party. Teachers just go home and sleep! Well, this one does anyway. 😉

              1. Patty Nguyen 2014-06-04 at 20:42

                Yeah bed and cuddle time with Bailey are my most exciting plans most days. 😉

  11. Priya Kedlaya 2014-06-03 at 08:05

    Mmm.. the magical pearls look divine, bathed in coconut milk! Also 1000 points to you for using the word “labyrinthine”.. can’t stop saying it in my head!

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-06-03 at 12:40

      Priya, Isn’t labyrinthine such a great word? Now you might want to include it in your conversations 😉

  12. Mabel Kwong 2014-06-03 at 11:45

    Totally agree with you on the theory of politeness. I find that I always spot those who are being politely fake. Sometimes I’ll buy something and the cashier will say a cheery “Have a nice day”, smile and all. I always smile back, because I like to…but then, just when I’m halfway smiling and saying thank you, they look away either dropping their smile and going on to do something else like arranging plastic bags, or attend to the next person. This has also happened with random people I’ve just met at, say at work or with a group of friends’ friends. I find such behaviour so rude and feel like I’m interrupted trying to be genuinely nice.

    Hope your having a good week, Sofia. Coconut milk…mmm 🙂

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-06-03 at 17:43

      Oh gosh, I spot them too! They are annoying aren’t they! The problem is in Spain sometimes they don’t even bother to pretend to be. Like, you want to pay, and they stand there talking to each other about their boyfriends and look at you like: why are you interrupting us? I often end up not buying the item off them when this happens. A lost sale.
      I’m fine here. I hope you’re having a great week too Mabel! xx

  13. Helen @ Scrummy Lane 2014-06-03 at 13:12

    Sofia, I’ve heard the same thing said in Greece, that British politeness is forced and so therefore hypocritical. I agree with you, though … being nice to people is never a bad idea, for so many reasons. Love this post! So interesting. Love the idea of using coconut milk in desserts, too. I just read an interesting article on ways to use leftover coconut milk. Worth a read! 🙂

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-06-03 at 17:44

      Aha, so maybe this is a Mediterranean thing, this mentality!
      I’ll try and find what you say, though I’ve never ever had left over coconut milk. I like it too much 😉

  14. chef mimi 2014-06-03 at 14:57

    I completely agree with you. I strongly feel that for no other reason, it keeps you feeling happy. And it’s way more fun feeling happy than grumpy! Thanks for reminding of tapioca – haven’t made it in years!!!

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-06-03 at 17:45

      Agreed, feeling happy is way more fun than feeling grumpy.
      Maybe you can make some tapioca soon and put it in your blog? 😉

  15. eleieleika 2014-06-03 at 17:10

    How did I do this <3 ? just put your mouse point softly on it … et voila….!

  16. Amanda 2014-06-03 at 23:53

    So funny! I kind of agree with you, but i do think you can be overly polite, which borders on rudeness. It seems to be a very European trait to view politeness as rudeness though. I have tapioca pearls! I just bought them. Your pudding looks wonderful. I love tapioca. I plan to grind mine into flour and make my favorite Latin American bread! Un beso.

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-06-04 at 10:51

      I think it’s an especially Mediterranean trait to view it as rudeness. But yes, sometime when it’s so obvious that someone is pretending to be polite and frown before you look away. it can be rather rude. Wow, a tapioca Latin American bread. Will that go into your blog? It sounds very interesting! Un beso.

  17. Sylvia @superfoodista.com 2014-06-04 at 05:10

    Ohhhh… I love this! My mom used to make this a lot when we were kids, so yummy!
    My belief is, smile if you can, because it will make others smile back and it will create like a positive cycle. But sometimes, if you just don’t feel like smiling, it’s ok not to. But I think there should never be a reason to be rude! 😉

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-06-04 at 10:52

      You’re right, if you’re feeling down theres no reason to smile, but there’s no reason to be rude 🙂

  18. Michelle 2014-06-04 at 06:05

    Smile whenever possible. And you can’t go wrong with tapioca pearls!

  19. AgileWriter 2014-06-04 at 08:05

    I love coconut milk…
    Wanted 2 share with my blogger friends..
    M nominated for the Liebster Award
    Please check this out!!

  20. Liz 2014-06-04 at 16:29

    I’m all over your theory!!! My general demeanor is happy and smiley (though privately and with family I can put on the grump with the best of them) and to me it’s all about fake it ’til you make it. My (sincere) smiles and good wishes are contagious and eventually come back to me and turn me around. So I guess I’d be a bad Spaniard, haha. No wonder we’re connecting well, Sofia 🙂

    My husband loves tapioca pudding, so we always have the pearls around. It’s fun to shop for them at Asian grocers as there are other colors and sizes. Have never thought to use coconut milk (though I did slip some rum in once!) and now I can’t wait to try your recipe. I bet it’d be fantastico with a vanilla bean steeped in the milk, too! Thanks for sharing your recipe and also so much of yourself.

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-06-04 at 20:48

      Don’t be fooled, I can pull off a great grump too 😉 I always assumed your general demeanour is happy and smily, just through seeing your happy photo and reading your blog, you can tell, yes no wonder we are connecting so well.
      Oh yes, I saw some big tapioca pearls recently, and others that were multicoloured, and thought they were fun. I’ll need to take your advice and sneak some rum into them one day 🙂 Have a lovely evening Liz! xx

      1. Liz 2014-06-04 at 21:54

        You have made. my. day. by being able to pick up the happy/smily thing just from my blog. I love if my personality really does come through my writing–then it’s not fake 🙂 Glad we’ve been cooking together, so big thanks to Shanna. Still thinking about wakame. ??? Asked my marshmallow class if they thought I could get by with making a seaweed marshmallow and they thought it was a bad idea. (as do I) Pretty sure this one has to go savory.

        1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-06-05 at 16:54

          I know what you mean, it’s nice when your blogs manages to reflect us. Yes, big thanks to Shanna! I’ve already made my w! It was delicious! They might think a seaweed marshmallow is a bad idea, but someone has to try it first, right? Seaweed and salted caramel marshmallow, thats how you can get away with the saltiness 😉 haha

  21. egeedee 2014-06-05 at 05:16

    My theory is treat others like you would like to be treated. It’s easy and doesn’t require much thought. If I’m ever rude to someone, it’s because I wasn’t respected in the first place. That said, I would not do that at my job (which is a service-based job) to my customers even if they are rude (which they NEVER are. We have awesome customers!) I Love love this pudding. I think I’m going to try a version of it this week. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-06-05 at 16:57

      It’s great to have awesome customers. You’re right we shouldn’t do that to customers. Before when I used to work as a pharmacist, we would get plenty of shouting at, but that’s because some people were really stressed out with their illnesses and would take it out on us because we were the last on their medical chain for that day. Still we had to be empathetic and patient with them. I hope you try the pudding, it’s great 🙂

  22. lapetitecasserole 2014-06-05 at 16:04

    Is not easy answer to your question… I have never stopped asking myself about rudeness and politeness… thanks a lot Sophia, I have something new to reflect on! Never use tapioca pearls, with coconut is really tempting!

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-06-05 at 16:59

      You mean you have something to continue to reflect on 😉 Give it a try, it’s so easy and yes very tempting. xx

  23. apartmentwife 2014-06-05 at 18:50

    you must know how much i love this post – i agree whole heartedly that being happy and polite makes others want to be happy and polite, and there is a whole theory to prove it: the emotional contagion. “Emotional contagion” is a strong psychological effect in which we “catch” the happy, sad, or angry moods of others. Someone in a happy, energetic mood will help boost the moods of others, and obviously, this creates a very pleasant atmosphere. Unfortunately, negative moods are more contagious than positive moods; if I’m crabby, I can trigger a wave of crabbiness in my friends.

      1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-06-06 at 09:33

        Hi Jennifer, oh yes I adore how you try and infect the world with your happiness 🙂 Thanks for the link, it’s very interesting! xxx

  24. Rae (@theNotice) 2014-06-06 at 01:30

    Those tapioca pearls look delicious! I’ll have to give your recipe a try sometime soon — I think I have some tapioca pearls in the back of the cupboard. 😉

    I believe wholeheartedly in the “emotional contagion” theory, too; while I don’t appreciate it when shopkeepers are polite in an overly-effusive, clearly false way, I do always appreciate someone approaching me as happily as I would them. Why not bring a little cheer to someone else’s day, you know? 🙂

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-06-06 at 09:30

      Hi Rae, the recipe is so easy so I hope you do give it a try 🙂
      Yes, the emotional contagion theory, if everyone were to bring some cheer, we would all be more relaxed and naturally cheerful. Have a lovely day!

  25. SJPONeill 2014-06-10 at 01:34

    Tapioca for dessert tonight!! A nice simple recipe that I’ll try myself before inflicting on the kids as frogs’ eyes…on politeness, I work front office as it were and strive to be pleasant to everyone…fortunately we have a very high turnover of visitors and tourists so only have to endure any ‘challenging bones for a day or two…unfortunately that same dynamic means that the interesting ones are fleeting as well…

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-06-10 at 08:52

      You’re going to say it’s frogs’ eyes? hahahaha Yes, before when I worked in pharmacies it was the opposite, the turnover of visitors was small, plenty of regular customers..

      1. SJPONeill 2014-06-10 at 08:55

        Yep…and raisins and dates in scones are, respectively, dead flies and slugs…

          1. SJPONeill 2014-06-10 at 08:58

            LOL!! The girls think it is hilarious to tell their Mum that they had dead flies etc for lunch at Poppa’s…and she feigns shock/horror and hams it up for them…

  26. Ngan R. 2014-06-18 at 19:49

    I’m so sorry I missed this a few weeks ago, Sofia! Patty just told me she made this and I immediately said I want to make it, too! I happen to have everything for this pudding and we are huge fans of pudding in the summer. As for happiness, I’m the big dork who smiles at everyone, regardless of whether they smile back or not. On my morning commute, especially, I try to smile at everyone I pass to instill in myself a sense of a sunny disposition and hopefully carry it through the day. I used to get really irritated by people who “fake smiled” at me or were falsely polite, but then I realized that’s their problem, not mine. Easier said than to always remember and carry out, but I try. Now I’m off to make pudding!

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-06-19 at 10:40

      If you’re the one that smiles with everyone then I want to walk around the city with you, it would be a lot of fun 🙂 How cute that you found out about this pudding through Patty, I hope you make some and enjoy it! xx


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