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Archive for September, 2010

Our First Hello.

My confidence rarely fails me. My outspoken nature marks me as a rarity who fails to regester the concept of shyness. I assure you this is not the outcome of my ego engulfing all sence of emotion; it’s simply a childhood of silence followed by the realisation that talking gets you further than not. There are certain situations, however, where my mouth abandons me and I find myself trapped in the headlights of an oncoming greeting. Despite the internal voice encouraging me to imitate the sacred cucumber and stay cool, that feeling of awkwardness always finds me.

I am a well enough travelled person to recognise that people in different countries use different forms of greeting. Cyprus has what I call the ‘double-kiss’, you need one on each cheek – the second is not optional. Traditionally some Arabic countries go as far as the quadruple-kiss, rather self-explanatory I feel, and exhausting I’d imagine. The Japanese bow- perhaps the British should take a leaf out of their book and  implement one such greeting. This seems favourable as it eliminates the need to circle any given event, awkwardly kissing almost-strangers. England claims to use the handshake, which I feel would be civil enough if it were on any level true.

Despite having lived in London the entirety of my life, I have used the handshake no more times than I can number on both hands. Such rules of civility are no longer applicable in informal situations. Whilst technology has helped aid the development of many businesses, it seems to have hindered our abilities of interaction. For me, hanging up the phone is the most familiar way of ending a formal discussion and unfortunately, my abilities of communication end there. Upon the moments of being introduced to a stranger, I tend to find those ever-so-subtle nervous sweats ignoring their lack of invitation and consuming my usually calm exterior. Then, like a child sitting an exam, I begin to mentally reel different forms of established greeting, attempting to deem which is most appropriate. The handshake, as I have observed in previous attempts, is not a sufficient form in one such situation, or in fact any such situation outside a meeting or job interview. Try it, I dare you, people will laugh.

In a man’s world a confident handshake in most situations can make your boyfriend look like Danny Cipriani: strong and masculine. Unfortunately, the same goes for women and whilst I am happy to be perceived as the former, masculinity is not an attribute I desire. For those ladies who are in possession of an iron grip, I fear it is most likely wasted. I have yet to hear of a man seeking such a quality in a wife. I suppose the assumption that women are emotional has done a lot in favour of ‘the hug’; after all, it is important that we allow men to continue believing in our delicate and affectionate nature. I may complain, but I also conform.

First I consider what I have named ‘the awkward hug’. I am certain you know of what I speak. It is the kind of hug which demands neither body touches – it is swift and unfriendly and lacking in all the real qualities of a hug. Next comes the single kiss, (though consider this your warning) if the fellow participant misreads your intentions and approaches for the double kiss, likely consequences include face bumping and accidental lip touching. My personal favourite, is the ‘awkward wave’ which can be used upon meeting people as a sign that you are not interested in personal bodily contact. Problematically, if they choose to ignore your subtle hint and go in for the hug regardless, chances are your hand will smother their face.

The list goes on, as does my confusion. Unfortunately I feel I have outgrown the age where I can hide from people, hoping to avoiding such greetings as the awkward ‘body bump’. For those of you lucky enough to have avoided one such experience, I briefly add that the ‘body bump’ is the result of two people going in for a hug, in exactly the same direction. Do not misunderstand me, I do not mean to sneer at peoples chosen greetings; instead I request we simply agree on a universal ‘hello’. A personal favourite of mine is the Zambian greeting with involves gently squeezing each other’s thumbs, though I feel my enthusiasm to implement this into British culture may be poorly received.

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