Do you cheek kiss, hug, shake hands, wave or something when greeting someone?
Do you do a mix depending on the situation or the person being a friend, a colleague, an acquaintance, a family member or a total stranger?
I’m not one who likes cheek kissing and I’m living in a country that probably invented the kissing practice! Imagine my pain as in France it is not one but two “bises” you give each time you meet and greet someone. A “rendez-vous” with a group of friends? Don’t forget to factor in the time you’ll spend doing rounds of kisses!
Greeting usages vary a lot. Even within a country you could find yourself distributing one, two, three or even four cheek kisses depending on where you live.
In Brussels, it is one unless you attend an official celebration. Congratulating someone on their special day (wedding, graduation, …) is done with three “bises”. Dang, I still remember my wedding day and the 130 guests happily queuing in front of my husband and I to kiss us three times each. Let me tell you, my cheeks hurt big time! But that’s a once in a lifetime event so it’s all good and fun to remember.
Back to France. A few of my friends know I am not a big fan of that custom. Neither are they, which makes us all happy, we waive at each other and start our conversation. When meeting with a third person, you’ll see the weird glance they’ll send us, they’ll feel a bit uncomfortable and might even comment on this absence of physical contact. Why are we not respecting the local social greeting rule, what on earth is wrong with us?
Not later than this past weekend I left a party without kissing goodbye. I just couldn’t, fifteen people were looking at me. I quickly thought to myself, I’m about to give thirty kisses, I just can’t do this! I approached the group and said a very loud goodbye whilst waiving at everyone.
I did receive a comment from the lady standing next to me, she was horrified (or maybe envious?). If I mix the expression on her face with her actual words it would give something like “what, you are not going to distribute the social sesame of goodbyes? Are you feeling feverish? Where are your manners?”.
Some of my friends are huggers. I’m not feeling more at ease with hugs. Call me weird if you want! For how long do you let the hug go on? Do you give each other a little tap on the back to say “let it go now, this is lasting a little too long and is getting a bit awkward”?
The worst is when I try to give a kiss to my American friends and they are just leaning in to hug me, it’s a mix of everything and then we add the tapping on the back, a repeating movement until we let go. At that moment take a close look at your American friends, try to read the expression on their face, what goes through their mind when trying to smooch them. Horror? Disbelief? Curiosity? Awkwardness? Disgust? You name it, maybe it is one, maybe all of these together! Quite funny!
We are left with handshakes. Are you a man or a woman? I ask because where I live the handshake is quite common for men saluting one another, whether they are close friends or complete strangers but it is reserved for strangers when it comes to women.
Here again, I’d rather avoid this practice: sweaty hands in the summer, germ loaded ones in the winter, strong and weak handshakes. Mines are quite strong and I sometimes fear I might break someone’s hand. And after that, here comes the cleansing gel!
Are you wondering how to say hello to me? Thinking I’m a bit odd? Oh come on, I bet I am not the only one!!
My oh my, I really like to waive and smile, so much easier! And so much cleaner! I’m a big fan of the physical “personal space bubble” concept. Emotionally, on the other hand, I’ll let you in way closer than physically.
Tell me, where do you live and how do people say hi there? Do you have a preference? Do you adapt to the local usages or do your own thing? I’d love to hear about your experience!