I don’t exactly remember the first time it happened, but I do remember how I felt. Confused, perplexed, awkward – the same that I feel each time I am in a similar situation. You see their mouth curving into a smile, their eyes widening,them coming closer and leaning in…
Even after living in Europe for more than 4 years now and being in such confusing situations for at least 3 years, I only have one major question each time it happens –
How many times should I kiss you on the cheek to greet you?
Seriously. I don’t know what you were thinking, but I was talking about the feeling you have when someone comes closer to greet you. Firstly, are we hugging or kissing?Secondly, what sort of a kiss is it? Thirdly, do I stop at 2 or move on to 3? Trust me, it’s way too awkward if you stop at 2 while the other person moves on to the third..or vice-versa.
The thing with cheek kisses is, some cultures love it and some hate it. Some like it at 2 and some like it as 3..always..even if you see the person every single day!
A friend of mine was telling me how they end up spending 15 minutes everyday kissing everyone when they arrive for work. She works in France, and it is really rude to not kiss and greet, apparently. Again, maybe it doesn’t hold true for all regions,but for a large majority of people, it does. Strangely, if you just cross the border and move into Switzerland or Germany, people might not entertain this form of greeting. In fact, several German friends of mine have expressed their absolute hatred towards kissing on the cheek to greet someone! They find it too personal and unnecessary. A hand shake would just serve the purpose well enough.Perhaps, hugs and kisses are reserved more for really close friends?
Another point of concern is:which cheek do you kiss first? In some countries, you kiss on the right cheek first and in the others, on the left. Interestingly, there are some theories as well as stories behind these traditions. For instance, one of the stories says that the double kiss in a traditional Italian household meant reassurance of the fact that they were there for each other. Hugs and kisses undoubtedly bring people closer, make them more comfortable and symbolize openness, trust as well as friendship.I came across an interesting research paper about hugging, and in case you are interested, you can check it out too. It’s incredible as to how each posture and action of ours portrays a different meaning!
For me personally, I have been used to hugging friends when I meet them, and subconsciously did the same after moving to Europe..except it would turn really awkward if the person instead left a peck on one cheek first, and then the other. Sometimes, I would realize it just in time and do the same..standing still after the second one while the other would continue for the third!
To help myself and hopefully a lot of you too, I have started collecting info for the right way to greet people across different countries, and will publish a post soon on my travel blog-Europe Diaries. I hope that it will ease out the awkwardness a bit or at least give us a heads up as to what to expect! If you have any suggestions regarding your home or current location, please do let me know and I shall add it in the post.
Thanks for being here!Really appreciate you hanging out with me virtually:)
From school (particularly middle school), I vividly remember the expressions on my classmates’ faces just before the teacher would distribute exam results. Tensed, excited,nervous – one could see it all over our faces. Each time someone went to collect their paper from the teacher, the others would look at her in anticipation, and wait for her to declare her score. Each declared score determined the current highest scorer, and made the others even more restless. Now I feel that one should judge themselves by how much they have improved from the last time, and learn from their mistakes. But, I suppose we were too young to understand this back then. Strangely, someone scoring a 97 would be ecstatic, but only until she found out that someone else had scored a 98. Yes, happiness was short-lived for the person who came 2nd, for she would sulk about how she just missed it.
After the London Olympics 2012, BBC published an article online stating this exact observation among the Silver Medal winners. A study conducted after the 1992 Olympics found out that people who won the Silver Medal were less happier than those who won the Bronze or even those who didn’t win anything at all. Puzzled? So was I . But, the fact remains that people tend to think about how things could have been different and what they could have achieved – termed by psychologists as ‘counterfactual thinking’. This kind of thinking is more associated with the Silver Medal winners, for they feel that they were so close to the Gold and they just missed it. On the other hand, the Bronze medallists feel relatively happier thinking that they at least made it to the top 3 and did not lose out on their chances completely.
So now I know that this behaviour does not only pertain to a group of teenagers from a Convent School, but is in fact common with a lot of people all over the world. On many occasions, you might have cursed that one moment which could have been different, that one step you could have taken, or on another note, maybe that one sentence you could have said to someone. But, do not be overwhelmed by regret or sorrow. You cannot do anything about what could have been, though you can certainly be thankful for what you have and prepare yourself to do better next time.
As BBC rightly puts it, “We’re all haunted by things we could have done, or shouldn’t have done. What’s the point in dwelling on such matters, we may ask, when we can’t change the past?”