Friday, October 27, 2006

Right on the Kisser

When it comes to greeting friends and acquaintances, I've said my piece on the cheek-kissing vs. hugging debate elsewhere, so there's no need to cover old turf. (In sum: cheek kissing is FAR superior and keeps you from having to choose between impressing your body against a middling acquaintance or coldly shaking hands. Naysayers claim that the kissing is Euro-mimicry of the worst sort, but aren't social hugs so phony, really? I will agree that consciously adopting a kiss-culture in the midst of a dominant hugging norm would mean you are a total tool, so I merely bemoan the status quo and do not prescribe a revolution.) Georgia was a firmly cheek-kissing culture and my social interactions were far better for it.

Returning to hug-centric America has generally been uneventful. I know that folks here hug, so I hug. The social norms are easy to navigate. But what about the friends I made in Georgia that are now here in America with me? Our default social greeting was always the cheek-peck, but here, that seems somehow affected (like all those study-abroad-in-Italy types tossing off ciao well after re-entry). And yet, adjusting agreed-upon interaction after crossing an arbitrary geographical border seems equally silly.

The dilemma has real consequences. Just today, I bumped into a Georgian friend from Georgia. He's been in America about six weeks—long enough to pick up on our habits—and when we met there was simply an awkward bobbing back and forth towards each other...cheek-no!...hug-wait!...and we simply settled for swaying stupidly and exchanging business cards. The real DC hello.


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