Thursday, 2 February 2012

Kissing and hugging and greeting and meeting

Photo: Doisneau
There is one thing that keeps causing me embarrassment and blushing cheeks, that has done so since I first came to England; greeting people. As a Norwegian I am used to simply shaking hands, exchanging slightly awkward smiles and a "Nice to meet you", and only if you're meeting an old friend or family do you give them a big hug. The distinction between who you hug and who you don't is usually pretty clear, and in a very Norwegian way (some may disagree with me here) I like to keep my distance to strangers.

Here in England there is no way of predicting how people will greet you. You would expect, shy and polite as the English are meant to be, that they would simply shake your hand with a "How do you do?" or a "How very lovely to meet you, darling". But no. Some English people will stick to shaking hands, whereas others will kiss you on the cheek- even the first time you meet them. And even worse, some will kiss you on both cheeks, which means that there's an awkward moment of "now that (s)he has kissed me on one cheek, is (s)he going to kiss me on the other?" and "should I pull back or lean forward for another kiss?" which could easily lead to an awkward kiss in unexpected places. And lots of blushing, too. Also, there are few things that as embarrassing as kissing someone who was intending to shake your hand. The English get very awkward about that. How embarrassing to not know how to greet people in a proper way!

I wish someone would have given me a leaflet on this topic when I came to study here. It would have made my life a lot less embarrassing. And why can't we all stick to shaking hands anyway?


  1. Det er nettopp slike scener så er så pinlige at man bare må le! Og jeg bare må få lov å sitere fra den utmerkede boka Watching the English, av Kate Fox:

    The Embarrassment Rule
    "In fact, the only rule one can identify with any certainty in all this confusion over introductions and greetings is that, to be impeccably English, one must perform these rituals badly. One must appear self-consious, ill-at-ease, stiff, awkward and, above all, embarrassed. Smoothness, glibness and confidence are inappropriate and un-English. Hesitation, dithering and ineptness are, surprising as it may seem, correct behaviour. ...If you are socially skilled, or come from a country where these matters are handled in a more reasonable, straightforward manner ( such as anywhere else on the planet), you may need a bit of practice to achieve the required degree of embarrassed, stilted incompetence."

    Er ikke dette rasende festlig, så vet ikke jeg! Og hvis du ikke allerede skulle ha stiftet bekjentskap med Bill Bryson, kan jeg varmt anbefale hans aldeles hysterisk morsomme bok Notes from a Small Island. Oh, those Brits....

    1. Hahaha! Fantastisk bra! Jeg har ihvertfall mestret kunsten med å "appear self- conscious, ill- at- ease, stiff, awkward and embarrased", det er sikkert! Jeg føler det selv når jeg skal hilse på flere (etterhvert) ganske godt bekjente, og vet liksom aldri hvordan jeg skal angripe situasjonen. Det verste var da jeg nesten kysset mannen til en god venninne av meg midt på munnen! Huffameg.
      Bryson har jeg ikke vært noe særlig borti, men skal sjekke det ut!

    2. Hihihiii! Må ha vært litt spesielt!

      Riktig god helg til deg!

  2. Unfortunately English people are all just as confused as you...