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Saturday, 16 April 2011

Kiss, kiss. Shake, shake.

Another politeness question in this week's programme was the etiquette of greeting ― in Mike's case by the expected handshake and the unexpected kiss. Having lived in several other countries, I don't feel it unnatural to kiss cheeks, but I do tend to flick an internal switch before I act foreign in this way.

But kissing isn't necessarily a substitute for a handshake. I used to tell foreigners that handshaking is very rare in Britain. Ignoring the congratulatory handshake, I believed that the norm was to shake hands once in a lifetime with any given individual ― on the occasion that you're introduced, or introduce each other. This I thought (and still do) was true of the greeting How do you do!

When I came to Scotland, I changed this to saying Once in a lifetime in England and once a year in Scotland. This is because people here shake hands when they meet at the start of  a new year.

Well OK, I exaggerated. We shake hands more often than I reckoned, but still far less than in other cultures and countries. What should I have said? When do the rest of you shake hands or kiss?

1 comment:

  1. Uncharacteristically I shook my brother's hand when meeting him face to face for the first time for a couple of years. Our family is very non physical. (As youngsters I recall being thumped by the same brother as a sort of greeting.) Now I know where the idea was sown. Thanks Mike (sic).

    When I arrived in Scotland the first day of the year was mayhem as managers circulated in an attempt to greet every employee and shake hands/kiss cheek. As companies grow this becomes more restricted.