So today I thought I would write a blog on an interesting cultural difference… the greeting kiss.
In Australia, we generally greet friends with a simple ‘hello’ or with a wave. From time-to-time we may see our parents greet a friend with a kiss on the cheek, or maybe we do this ourselves. This is different in Italy.
I thought it was just something for the movies when you see the ‘typical Italian’ characters greet one another with a kiss on each cheek. I was wrong.
Quickly after arriving in Italy I have to get familiar and comfortable with the greeting kisses. Not only is this something that is typical for my Italian friends, but all of my other friends on exchange do this too.
Now, this greeting kiss is an art that had to be perfected. You need to be fast enough to avoid an awkward situation, be careful not to bump heads too hard, and be sure not to unwittingly offend somebody by missing them when greeting at a party.
I think there will be a similar art when I get back to Australia, where I have to learn to stop using this form of greeting that I have become so attacked to…
But even more than this, the other week in Switzerland I discovered just how complex this method of greeting can be.
As I was visiting a friend, she introduced me to others. One of which proceeded with the typical two-cheek-kiss greeting I am familiar with. Before pausing with HIS face in front of mine.
For that split moment, a lot of awkward things ran through my mind ‘I just said hi, what is he still looking at me like this for?’ and ‘does he think I am going to kiss him on the lips?’ were some frantic thoughts.
Moments later, my friend noticed my confusion and kindly explained to me ‘Here we give three kisses’.
Now this I still didn’t understand. Horrified, I asked: ‘You kiss people on the lips?’
It turns out, no. In Switzerland they kiss to greet people, three times: left check, right cheek, left cheek OR right cheek, left cheek, right cheek.
I know, this does make a lot more sense. But still, this cultural difference which confused me so much, and almost made for a VERY awkward moment, made me think: There are a lot of differences between how to greet, and even variations on the same idea. How is a person supposed to know all of these things?
PS: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!