Greetings have never been so awkward to me until I came to Canada. See, back in my home-country, we are not used to hugging. When you meet someone, you have three options:
- Shake hands
- Kiss on the cheek (We call this “faire la bise”. But men don’t give each other the cheek kiss.)
- Or simply say hi.
The first option is only applicable in the business environment. Kissing on the cheek is only with your close ones and saying hi is meant for acquaintances. Now, imagine my surprise when a friend informed me before landing that Canadians are “very fond of hugging”. Did that mean that I was to hug everyone to say hi?
To avoid any public embarrassment, I remember asking a friend of mine how I was supposed to greet her the first time we met. We had been chatting before I came and it was the first time that we were finally meeting. “I guess we say hi”, she said eyeing me as if I was the most bizarre thing she had ever encountered.
Three months have passed but the greetings have not become any less awkward. I always dread the encounters, waiting for the other person to make the first move. My mind always races with the appropriate greeting gesture. Should it be a hug or a mere handshake?
During five seconds, I stand by and wait for the other person to take the lead. All while, asking myself whether it is not that apparent that I really don’t know how to deal with it. I smile but I am mentally telling myself that “this is definitely awkward”. And I still do not know on which level of relationship the hug falls.
Plus, there are so many kind of hugs. Quick hugs, friendly hugs, loving and romantic hugs. Sometimes it is a side hug. Other times, it is a hug accompanied by a pat on the back or swaying back and forth and sometimes there is a lot of distance between the two people. And I really don’t know which one to choose or how to react.
Blame it on the fact that it is not a Mauritian culture to hug. We just don’t hug to say hi. Period. Not with friends, not with colleagues and definitely not with casual acquaintances If you do something like that in my country, people will be perplexed and might just stare at you. Or out of politeness reciprocate it all while thinking that this is weird.
Or, in the worst case scenario, think that you are trying to get close fast. As in the romantic sense…Literally and figuratively! Hugging is considered as something very intimate.
I might not be used to hugs but the handshakes are not any better. Especially when greeting someone of my age. I always have the urge to ask: “Are we doing business? Is this some kind of company meeting?” Honestly, I find the handshakes very frigid. And it gives me the impression that the other person is very cold.
Anyway, I am slowly but definitely adapting. So, just hug me already! Just the other day, I hugged all my friends goodbye. I guess that I am progressing! Someday, I will definitely become a pro in hugs. Now if you want to share your thoughts and feelings about this post or want to share your experiences about dealing with new greetings when abroad, feel free to comment below.