One of the things many expats talk about is how the rules for meeting and greeting people vary from one country to another. Here in the American mid-west, everyone's into big hugs. You can meet someone for the first time and get a chest-crunching bear hug on leaving. There's even a National Hugging Day (January 21st) in the US, the stated purpose being "to help everyone show more emotion in public." Cause you know Americans are just too inhibited ;-)
Want to hear a gross hug story? Not too long ago I bumped into a guy I have know for years, although not very well. Never socialized with him or worked with him; just know him from being "around". He's not the most socially adept person either. In fact, it's a good day if I see him before he sees me. This time however, he caught me and came towards me with the arms outstretched. "Oh no", I thought. "Is he going to huge me? We barely know each other." But yes, he pulled me in for a hug. But missed. And the thick, grizzly hairs on his ears poked me in the eye! Yuck! And ouch!
Anyway, (she says, shuddering at the memory) I never quite know what to do in the UK these days as people are kissing a lot more than they ever used to, if memory serves. And then there's the question of how many kisses? Some of my friends do the two kiss thing and others just the one. (Thank goodness it's not France where I'd have to figure out if it might get to three.) Last year I was kissed my a male friend of a friend even though we'd never met, which threw me a little.
A few weeks ago I met up with a lady who is now back in the Chicago area but has recently lived in England and France. We had "met" online through friends of friends, and had communicated via e-mail, so when it came to actually meeting, I hadn't a clue what to do. Initially I put my hand out to shake but then morphed it into a small hug, joking about my predicament. She told me that if we'd been in Paris it would have been the two kissses. Sounds like they've got it sorted out.
I met another online friend last week in person, and we hugged, because when you chat online for the amount of time we already had, you feel as if you know each other. One thing I need to do however, is train the 13 year old. When introduced to this same friend, he almost knocked her over with a bear hug which came as quite a surprise to me and her. I'm not sure whether he thought she was an old friend he'd previously met or what was going on, but I gently told him later that it's probably better to wait until you know someone to do the big hug thing. Especially when you're now bigger than me and most of my friends!
So yeah. Another learning curve.