A non-guide to avoid awkwardness when greeting human beings
May 27, 2015 7:03 AM   Subscribe

"I've always been fascinated by how human beings move through crowds.

How many millions of minute calculations must our brains be making in order for us to navigate from one end of a packed space to the other?

But despite being the owner of all this incredible processing power, there's still one thing my brain will never be able to figure out...

...one code it will never crack...

HOW DO I GREET PEOPLE IN MY LIFE?"

posted by moody cow (69 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
 
It was definitely one of the things I had to get used to when I lived in Quebec, the whole cheek-kiss thing. But after a while, it was second nature. (Of course, figuring out what side is still a problem!)

I am a hugger--not immediately, obviously, but if we've become friends, you're likely to get hugged upon greeting and goodbye--and it amuses my British friends when I visit because they think of me hilariously yet fondly as being an affectionate American. I do warn them when a hug is incoming for no reason. (Of course, if someone did not want to be hugged, I would not hug them but would politely ask what makes them comfortable in terms of my affection.)
posted by Kitteh at 7:08 AM on May 27, 2015


I would not hug them but would politely ask what makes them comfortable in terms of my affection
Kitteh

As a non-hugger I wish people wouldn't do this. I hate being put on the spot and having to defend my preferences. It's not polite, it's an imposition. Some people just don't like being hugged and shouldn't have to convince others as to why. Even being asked is kind of off-putting because it sets you up as "that guy" if you say no.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:11 AM on May 27, 2015 [14 favorites]


NO HUGS NO HUGS NEVER HUG ME STRANGE PERSON OR PERSON WHO IS NOT MY CHILD! RESPECT THE BUBBLE!!!

My favourite American friend gave me side hugs very carefully, laughing hysterically as she did so.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:14 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


The artist is Sarah Glidden. (Just felt her name should show up somewhere in the thread.)
posted by ocherdraco at 7:20 AM on May 27, 2015 [13 favorites]


The kiss/hug/handshake/simply-smile dilemma is a real one for me too. I'm generally not a touchy-feely person, but have had to get used to the hug-greet/kiss-greet as a grown-up, so it feels less unnatural now. I generally try to follow the lead of the other person, but that can cause embarrassing mishaps if/when you get it wrong.

Example:

I recently got my hair cut in a different town by a new stylist. She and I were chatting away really easily during the cut. All good. I was getting ready to leave, handed her the cash, and then she made a move toward me that apparently sent my brain into thinking "she wants a good-bye hug". So I leaned in to "let" the hug happen. But as soon as I walked away, I realised that the movement she made (whatever it was, maybe a particular lean with arm-movement) was not, in fact, an attempt to hug. I walked away super fast and felt beet-red and glad that I won't be seeing her again. Now I am one of those "overly-huggy" people!! 8?
posted by Halo in reverse at 7:21 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed this comic, thanks. My awkwardness in greeting people I know is apparent to me even when there is no question of a hug. With my old job I met City Mayors from time to time. Now I work with one and see him almost every day. It took me a couple days to learn when he walked by my office and said "Good Morning marxchivist, how are you?" he wasn't really interested in an answer.

I really do best if I keep my human interactions down to my Wife and our little dog.
posted by marxchivist at 7:22 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


An old friend of my wife's was a hugger as a little kid, until the fateful day his teacher affectionately referred to him as "Huggy Dougy" in front of the rest of the class.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:26 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't know when the double-cheek-kiss caught on in the UK but I'm not a fan. I can cope with hugs, I don't like the cheek kiss really, but the double always catches me out. There's a whole "oh I have to submit to the cheek kiss ok that's done aargh they're going in for another do I launch forward again shit I've banged their nose" moment. I wish I had a pound for every ear I've accidentally kissed or mouthful of hair I've got as I've staggered forward in slightly the wrong direction. And do I let them actually kiss my cheek or is it an air-kiss thing or do we press cheeks together or what the hell make it stop.
posted by billiebee at 7:31 AM on May 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


I am a big fan of warm handshakes, and it's sad that they're seen as corporate, business-like, or even old-fashioned nowadays. I met a business etiquette expert recently and she told a story about meeting with some oil field executives in Texas who even greet each other with big bear hugs.

I mean, I like a hug from a good friend or a family member, but relative strangers? What if I have BO? Where do my arms go? What if I'm taller or shorter than they are? What if they go for a deep hug but I go for a shallow one? Handshakes have similar possibilities for failure but IMO it's less embarrassing when they happen.
posted by muddgirl at 7:35 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


When I lived in Miami, most of my friends and coworkers were Latino so I was greeted with 'un beso por favor' a lot which took some getting used to.
posted by jonmc at 7:41 AM on May 27, 2015


It's not polite, it's an imposition. Some people just don't like being hugged and shouldn't have to convince others as to why. Even being asked is kind of off-putting because it sets you up as "that guy" if you say no.

Whoa. Okay, then I will stop.
posted by Kitteh at 7:42 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've found that bellowing "WHAT'S UP, YA WHORES!" is a greeting that works in many cultures, and gets past the whole "shake hands/hug/kiss/other" problem, and helps get past the initial issues of shyness and awkwardness.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 7:42 AM on May 27, 2015 [34 favorites]


You know you have a friend for life in Japan when they grab your ass.
posted by Nevin at 7:44 AM on May 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


New plan, go to France, convince them that the chest bump is the standard greeting in my part of America. (How many steps to take back for a running start? It depends on how close the relationship is.)
posted by vogon_poet at 7:48 AM on May 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


Handshakes have similar possibilities for failure but IMO it's less embarrassing when they happen

I hate a wet-fish handshake so have always been proud of my warm but firm grip. Until I had cause to shake my partner's hand recently and (not being bound by rules of politeness like my other recipients) he told me it was less "warm but firm" and more "holy fuck my knuckles why do you hate me so?" and now I'm retrospectively embarassed for years of turning people's bones to dust.
posted by billiebee at 7:49 AM on May 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


As a non-hugger I wish people wouldn't do this. I hate being put on the spot and having to defend my preferences. It's not polite, it's an imposition. Some people just don't like being hugged and shouldn't have to convince others as to why. Even being asked is kind of off-putting because it sets you up as "that guy" if you say no.

If it's not okay to ask about things like this then I'll find out about most people's boundaries by overstepping them. Seems suboptimal.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:52 AM on May 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


That, or you could just not do it unless specifically told or shown it's okay.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:53 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


In high school in Brooklyn, kissing on the cheek was considered a totally appropriate (if not expected) way for a guy to greet or send off a platonic lady-friend, which is something my Minnesotan wife finds bizarre to no end.
posted by griphus at 7:55 AM on May 27, 2015


The only correct way to greet is with a tiny nod of the head and simultaneous barely-audible grunt, standing no closer than three steps apart. Why does everyone else make it so difficult?

(PS: I am Scottish and consequently, you are wrong. Whatever it is you're doing or being.)
posted by scruss at 8:01 AM on May 27, 2015 [32 favorites]


It's easy to greet people. Just say "what's up?" or "how's it going?" or perhaps combine the two like I always do ARGGH
posted by infinitewindow at 8:02 AM on May 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


[greetings among men:] "chin up if you know him, chin down if you don't, overhand shake for friends, hugs for family members, pounds for children, handshakes for everybody else, it's pretty simple. But for women, I don't know!"

- Robbie Sherrard, "How to say hello to a woman"
posted by bigendian at 8:03 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's a moment when greeting or saying goodbye to someone where, if one is attentive, it's usually obvious whether that person is receptive to a hug. It occurs in the closing of space between bodies with ample time to convert a hug into a handshake, or to break off the engagement completely (the "bounce").

I noticed this as an inveterate hugger with a good number of friends who are adamant about not being touched. If I've been drinking though, you might have to weather a friendly grapple or two.
posted by echocollate at 8:08 AM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


I tend to give giant bear hugs that involve picking people off the ground. People either love them or hate them. There really isn't a middle ground. I try to be very mindful of who is who, but, when I'm drunk, all bets are off.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 8:17 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Kiss Hello is all I can think of.
posted by knownassociate at 8:17 AM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]




Here in Chile, historically a peck-on-or-near-the-cheek whenever one of the 2 greeters is a woman, the younger generation's men (regardless of sexual orientation) greet each other with kisses, as well, which I find super endearing and cool.
posted by signal at 8:24 AM on May 27, 2015


Everyone should just greet each other with passionate makeouts.

This would make events like the State of the Union address much more entertaining.
posted by JDHarper at 8:31 AM on May 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


> Even being asked is kind of off-putting because it sets you up as "that guy" if you say no.

Classic ask vs guess!

I tend to be a hugger - I blame lesbian culture for this.
posted by rtha at 8:32 AM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is why the leaping chest-bump should replace all other forms of greeting around the world. What could go wrong?
posted by goatdog at 8:45 AM on May 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


The only correct way to greet is with a tiny nod of the head and simultaneous barely-audible grunt, standing no closer than three steps apart. Why does everyone else make it so difficult?


I am a Scot! Who knew?
posted by winna at 8:49 AM on May 27, 2015


I was raised in a family that hugged everyone upon greeting and upon their leaving. It just feels natural. That being said. This is limited to close friends, lovers, and family members. Acquaintances, co-workers, & randoms receive polite nods, fist-bumps, and/or handshakes based on my mood. I've yet to have a close friend or family member tell me that my hugs are too aggressive or unwanted. If it is something they are not a fan of, they have been polite enough to not mention it to me. If someone did have an issue with it and mentioned it to me, I'd respect their wishes.

*hugs*
posted by Fizz at 8:58 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


As a European I am more than familiar with (air) kissing friends and acquaintances, but 'Do I kiss my dentist?' is a question I never imagined anyone grappling with.
posted by moody cow at 8:58 AM on May 27, 2015


To greet a room I just lift up my shirt and start punching my abs and let others have a go if they want.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:02 AM on May 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


I would not hug them but would politely ask what makes them comfortable in terms of my affection

i would expect you to hiss at me from the corner and then like 10 minutes later butt my arm with your head and demand skritches.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:02 AM on May 27, 2015 [27 favorites]


This is a charming comic and sums up the ambiguity well - even among cultures where you think it's less ambiguous, there are still complexities and nuances an outsider would not be privy to.

I live in Los Angeles and have noticed a "business hug." Sometimes, when I meet clients in person I've only corresponded with via email, I'm surprised when they go in for a hug when we meet! It seems so intimate and friendly. I love shaking hands, so in these situations, my instinct is like, "Aw yeah, perfect non-ambiguous moment for a good ol' handshake!" But even then, it's ambiguous! At first, it was off-putting, but I just go with it now and take it as a sign they're comfortable with me.

If I sense an awkwardness around a greeting or goodbye, I'll usually try to say something like, "Are we hugging?" And then I wait to see if the person extends a hand or goes in for a hug.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 9:03 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


You know, as a SAHD, this is one of the more awkward phases of my day.

What is the proper hello/goodbye for a woman you see only during pickup/dropoff at school? At the playground? Occasionally at storytime?

I mean, I don't really feel I know you well enough to actually put my body in contact with yours, but then what?
A handshake seem coldly informal, setting aside the fact that a lot of women don't really know what to do with a handshake.
Certainly not going to go with the single/double cheek kiss.
A "what's up" head nod works well with the other dads, but brings up latent childhood memories of being told to be courteous to ladies.

What about when you've progressed to the playdate? At that point, the other parent is in your house.
Is that the threshold for hugging? Two playdates?
In general, I wait for the other mom to initiate something, but that can lead to us both standing there in the doorway and then a "Well, ok, bye then."

Having been watching Downton Abbey lately, I gotta say, there's something to be said for its codified system of formality.
posted by madajb at 9:04 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is a fun comic. And I laughed out loud at: WELCOME TO FLUSHING.
posted by chavenet at 9:04 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Social greetings take up way more time and consideration in my life than its worth. I was raised with bare greetings at best with family ("Hi, Aunt ___!"), whereas my wife must hug and potentially cheek-kiss every relative in a room as she enters and leaves. Our kids are being trained with my wife's greeting style as it tends to be warmer (my family is not known for their warmth. Also FWIW, I'm white and she's Bolivian).

I've gotten used to the hug-every-person thing, though it's evolved to the point that it's mostly half-hearted side-hugs and, at most, an air-kiss (though before I figured out the air kiss there was some awkward near-misses).

Years of working retail and having to pretend I really like strangers has let me to perfect my stranger-greeting talents. For older adult males, it's a firm semi-enthusiastic handshake, and for basically everyone else it's direct eye contact and a quick grasp handshake if their hand is extended. The ending greeting is the one that I've perfected and works in almost every circumstance that's not family: high-five or fist bump. I could write a flow chart to determine which of those two it will be (the key is that I initiate), but the high five/fist bump is the perfect ending greeting for basically every situation where there isn't a blood relative involved.
posted by sleeping bear at 9:09 AM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


I ask if people are huggers because I'm *not* a hugger and have had to adjust to a social group and country (I'm a Canadian in the American South) where hugging is expected. I feel like asking is better than just grabbing somebody who is new to the group. Simply not hugging somebody is apparently rude and standoffish or so I've been repeatedly told.
posted by joannemerriam at 9:20 AM on May 27, 2015


I hate a wet-fish handshake so have always been proud of my warm but firm grip.

I do a super-lame wet fish handshake on purpose when I meet musicians. They'll often say: "Thanks, Man."
posted by ovvl at 9:37 AM on May 27, 2015


I watched a PBS documentary on the 1918 Spanish Flu, and it mentioned that American greetings were much more European in contact levels pre-pandemic, but everyone was a little colder afterwards.
posted by hwyengr at 10:21 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


This whole post reminded me of a thing that happened years ago that I hadn't thought about for dozens of months until now and made me cringe at myself ALL OVER AGAIN.

An ex has a very affectionate family. They're all originally from somewhere in the south and settled here in DC and they took some customs up with them. All genders in the family will kiss cheeks with family and well known friends, so I got that treatment since I was the boyfriend. One time, saying goodbye to one of her uncles, he went in for the hug/cheek kiss combo, and I, for whatever reason, after the hug, didn't leave my head there but turned towards him too, and ended up pecking him on the lips. I am super non-confrontational, was kind of stunned, and then he didn't say anything, so I just quickly turned and walked away. No one else saw it (we were the last to say goodbye to each other and the others had already walked away), and I never relayed it to anyone, not even the ex, because she was the mean sort who wouldn't let me live that down. That uncle never said anything about it either all the times I saw him afterwards, but I got the whole cheek kissing down and hadn't had that happened again.
posted by numaner at 10:22 AM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


So this is fascinating and I am down for whatever kind of greeting but as a Real American™ I was raised to offer my hand to a man, wait for the gesture from a woman, and hug only as a last resort. The European kissy thing is always fun when I’m over there sure, and I always have the fallback position of “as a Real American™ your strange ways frighten and confuse me.”

God help you with bowing in Japan though. That’s a MINEFIELD. I’d rather tongue-kiss strangers than figure out how deep I’m supposed to bow and for how long and if you err on the side of “too polite” turns out that’s super insulting!

I liked China, a smile and nod (the “comrade’s bow”) pretty much does the trick in every situation.
posted by axoplasm at 11:04 AM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


I once went to shake a dude's hand and he stuck out his finger. So I shook his finger. I just fist bump now.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 11:07 AM on May 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


As a Mississippi Delta lady, I picked up the effusive "Hel-lo-o! How are you!" covering several notes on the bar, delivered with a huge smile. This sounds enthusiastic enough to let people know you are just super happy to see them, letting you off the hook for hugs, and also eliding the question of whether or not you remember their name.
posted by Countess Elena at 11:08 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


…and while I adore this comic it vectors the squishy yogarific “translation” of Namaste (“The divine light in me acknowledges the demigod in you” ugh white people really?) which Hindi speakers of my acquaintance have informed me just means “I am bowing to you.”
posted by axoplasm at 11:08 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


eliding the question of whether or not you remember their name

In my younger days I would call everyone “Toby” upon second meeting and then wait to be corrected. It was an affectation.

Nowadays I’ve realized everyone forgets each others’ names so I lead right out of the gate on a second meeting with “I’m so forgetful, remind me your name…” and that totally puts everyone at ease.
posted by axoplasm at 11:12 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


axoplasm, that is definitely the right thing to say with recent acquaintances, but I don't dare do it in the town I grew up in, where the person I'm greeting may well have taught in my K-12 school, or saved me from drowning as a child. (True story -- I didn't recognize that lady, but then, I was not at my best when we first met.)
posted by Countess Elena at 11:20 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


That’s a MINEFIELD. I’d rather tongue-kiss strangers than figure out how deep I’m supposed to bow and for how long and if you err on the side of “too polite” turns out that’s super insulting!

I dunno, I used to live in Tokyo and it wan't that hard. We have kind of the same idea in the US: you can mock someone by being overly, sarcastically formal. Though even Japanese people can get it wrong: I was watching The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (a documentary about Studio Ghibli) on NetFlix and in one part Miyazaki was lamenting that people today don't know how to bow properly because in the old days you had to be careful how quickly you came back up. Bobbing up and down was rude.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:22 AM on May 27, 2015


I was visiting home for a family wedding (Miami, "oye mijito, gimme dat azúcar" *cheek peck*) but at one point I offered my fist to Mom for a bump, and she rocked it, AND EVEN DID THE HAND EXPLOSION AFTER
I WAS SO HAPPY
EVEN DID THE MOUTH SOUND "PSHHHW"
(she's a middle school counselor so this shouldn't have surprised me but it super did)
posted by jake at 12:09 PM on May 27, 2015 [13 favorites]


I wonder if my full beard discourages the kissing thing, because I can't honestly remember anyone trying to kiss me as a greeting, after 20 years living in SoCal.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:05 PM on May 27, 2015


but at one point I offered my fist to Mom for a bump, and she rocked it, AND EVEN DID THE HAND EXPLOSION AFTER

This has become the default form of greeting amongst my kid's kindergarten class.

I should probably teach her how to do a proper handshake at some point, but imagine how awesome it would be if fist bump explosions became the default greeting between people?*

Then in about 50 years, we could look forward to articles complaining how young people don't know how to fist bump properly, whether or not a "jazz hands" explosion is appropriate for greeting your boss, arguments about the correct way to orient your fist (knuckles up or to the side?)...

*I'm figuring it will be because of the germs. We've already gone from "cover your mouth when you cough" to "chicken wing" in a generation.
posted by madajb at 1:06 PM on May 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


Maybe I'm cray over-sensitive but I love to hug and I always ask permission to hug someone I'm not 100% sure is good for a hug. Etiquette all comes down to performing as expected and the best way to perform as expected is to be transparent about everybody's expectations!

(Although living in France sucked sometimes because of the whole gross-old-men-have-an-excuse-to-make-intimate-physical-contact thing, even if you try to be a feminist by holding out your hand for a handshake to pre-empt mouthslobber you get laughed at and slobbered on, anyway. Ew.)
posted by Mooseli at 2:29 PM on May 27, 2015


A favourite of mine is from the Philippines.

To show respect for an elder, grasp their hand warmly, then touch it to your forehead, while looking at them to show affection with your eyes.

Also, kids would grab the hand of the person the same gender and just hold it as you walked. Normally I am not too touchy-feely, but it was so gently done it never seemed to surprise me or make me feel ill at ease.

I don't know if this is true everywhere. The Philippines is, of course, extremely culturally diverse, but I found it lovely. I was traveling with Quebecois, so le bise was what we brought into the equation.

Also, this comic opens with the idea that moving through crowds is something we manage easily, which reminded me that in the Philippines I was shown to kind of guide my way through a group (especially if seated on the floor) with my hand, kind of a like a sail boat rudder in front of me. This I have kept as a habit in crowds in similar situations (i.e. at the daycare maneuvering through kids sitting on mats) for years as it seems so sensible.
posted by chapps at 3:24 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


But what kind of judgements do you make on people who say no, they don't want a hug? Having to refuse a hug is way more awkward than having to get one.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:53 PM on May 27, 2015


But what kind of judgements do you make on people who say no, they don't want a hug?

To be fair, I think anyone aware or sensitive enough to consider asking for someone's consent to hug them would get that for some people the answer would be No, and so wouldn't judge them for it. And also as a woman who has had my fair share of unwelcome/too tight/overlong hugs they can be just as awkward as refusing one.
posted by billiebee at 4:17 PM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hugs are fine, so are cheek kisses and friendly nods, but I hate the weird power plays around handshakes. So much judgment around the firmness of one's grip and implications about one's character, ugh.
posted by peppermind at 4:37 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


One of my (adult) library patrons hugged me tonight and I was surprisingly ok with it. I've spent 2 days heads down in Excel dealing with end of year budget issues, so, yeah, somebody being happy to see me was nice. I hope it's a trend.
posted by Biblio at 6:15 PM on May 27, 2015


I think it is only fair that if someone hugs you without asking you get to moan awkwardly and immediately excuse yourself to go to bathroom.
posted by srboisvert at 7:06 PM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Douglas Adams pithily summed up a subset of greeting awkwardness in this series of definitions from The Meaning of Liff:
CORRIEARKLET (n.)
The moment at which two people approaching from opposite ends of a long passageway, recognise each other and immediately pretend they haven't. This is to avoid the ghastly embarrassment of having to continue recognising each other the whole length of the corridor.

CORRIECRAVIE (n.)
To avert the horrors of corrievorrie (q.v.) corriecravie is usually employed. This is the cowardly but highly skilled process by which both protagonists continue to approach while keeping up the pretence that they haven't noticed each other - by staring furiously at their feet, grimacing into a notebook, or studying the walls closely as if in a mood of deep irritation.

CORRIEDOO (n.)
The crucial moment of false recognition in a long passageway encounter. Though both people are perfectly well aware that the other is approaching, they must eventually pretend sudden recognition. They now look up with a glassy smile, as if having spotted each other for the first time, (and are particularly delighted to have done so) shouting out 'Haaaaaallllloooo!' as if to say 'Good grief!! You!! Here!! Of all people! Will I never. Coo. Stap me vitals, etc.'

CORRIEMOILLIE (n.)
The dreadful sinking sensation in a long passageway encounter when both protagonists immediately realise they have plumped for the corriedoo (q.v.) much too early as they are still a good thirty yards apart. They were embarrassed by the pretence of corriecravie (q.v.) and decided to make use of the corriedoo because they felt silly. This was a mistake as corrievorrie (q.v.) will make them seem far sillier.

CORRIEVORRIE (n.)
Corridor etiquette demands that one a corriedoo (q.v.) has been declared, corrievorrie must be employed. Both protagonists must now embellish their approach with an embarrassing combination of waving, grinning, making idiot faces, doing pirate impressions, and waggling the head from side to side while holding the other person's eyes as the smile drips off their face, until with great relief, they pass each other.

CORRIEMUCHLOCH (n.)
Word describing the kind of person who can make a complete mess of a simple job like walking down a corridor.
posted by gilrain at 7:13 PM on May 27, 2015 [14 favorites]


Sangermaine: " As a non-hugger I wish people wouldn't do this. I hate being put on the spot and having to defend my preferences. It's not polite, it's an imposition. Some people just don't like being hugged and shouldn't have to convince others as to why. Even being asked is kind of off-putting because it sets you up as "that guy" if you say no."

I feel like people are misreading what Kitteh wrote, which was (emphasis added)
Of course, if someone did not want to be hugged, I would not hug them but would politely ask what makes them comfortable in terms of my affection.
She's not proposing to interrogate them as to why they don't want to be hugged, she is (as I read it) proposing to ask what they like. Less "You don't want a hug? Does this go back to childhood abandonment issues?" and more "No hugs? Cool enough. Handshake-with-upper-arm-pat okay?"

I'm a Northern Californian (San Francisco Bay Arean) by birth and upbringing, and I find navigating the hugging thing awkward at times. During high school, the greeting "Are you a hugger?" would sometimes pop up in the geeky circles we moved in. I have fond memories of one cranky friend who would respond, "No, I'm a kicker and a biter."
posted by Lexica at 9:20 PM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


No one has brought up the hand on the shoulder yet. I realize in reading this that I use it all the time. It's safe enough, it has degrees of friendliness, it has variations.

Of course, a lot of my social understandings are those of an alien observer, so I could have it all wrong.
posted by argybarg at 10:58 PM on May 27, 2015


I will hug the huggers (unless they're creepers), if they initiate. I generally don't initiate hugs unless someone is of that ilk. Generally speaking, I'm down with just waving at people. I find that hippies and relatives tend to be the huggers and everyone else usually isn't in NorCal, so I haven't had too many problems negotiating who does what.

But you know what I find awkward? How do you greet, or not, "someone that you used to know" that you see coming down the street, who "a long time ago, we used to be friends" but haven't actually spoken in years and may not exactly be on good terms with any more? Which is to say, they probably friend-dumped me. Honestly, it seems like the socially polite thing to do is just to pretend you didn't see them so nobody has to figure this shit out. Anyone have thoughts on this?

You know you have a friend for life in Japan when they grab your ass.

KANCHO!!!!!
It could be worse, folks.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:58 PM on May 27, 2015


I'm a Northern Californian (San Francisco Bay Arean) by birth and upbringing, and I find navigating the hugging thing awkward at times. During high school, the greeting "Are you a hugger?" would sometimes pop up in the geeky circles we moved in. I have fond memories of one cranky friend who would respond, "No, I'm a kicker and a biter."

Native Marinite here. I used to self-describe as "cold prickly" as a quick explanation for the reason I wasn't a hugger. It didn't always work as a deterrent, but it at least made me feel like I'd done my part to temper expectations.

My closest thing to support was usually the English cafe worker who thought it was hilarious to watch, and then re-enact in mime, my being hugged by friends or acquaintances.

Lately, though, I've adopted the wave as a personal greeting. Close friends get a low-to-the-waist cuttlefish flutter, those further out of the circle will get eye contact and a raised hand
posted by Graygorey at 11:05 PM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Having learnt to walk through a crowd in Australia (veer left when on a collision course), walking in the rest of the world is really difficult. The shuffle left, shuffle right, shuffle left, shuffle right, stand still until they go around you, aaargh.

I quite like the handshake that moves to a cheek-kiss that close friends do in Germany.
posted by kjs4 at 3:44 AM on May 28, 2015


I used to be a hug hater. I never understood the social clues that you were either supposed to hug someone or that a hug was incoming until far too late in the social transaction. As I get older and more socially isolated I found that getting hugs aren't so bad.

-Except for a particular type I wound up calling "safety hugs", one shoulder touching, nothing else maybe a faint pat on the back with the bottoms of the knuckles, never a whole hand. The wet fish of hugs. If anyone has practical tips on just getting those people to wave or handshake, or anything else I'm all ears. It wouldn't be so bad except when it's clear you're going to get one you have to lean in and risk losing your balance and making a complete mess of the scenario.

The ideal greeting is the way-too-high-five. Just watch the elbow, doesn't get any easier than that.
posted by mcrandello at 4:21 AM on May 28, 2015


I can deal with the cheek kissers if they are experienced european cheek kissers who understand that little to no actual contact is necessary. On no account will any elderly relatives be allowed to give me a slobbery wet st bernard cheek kiss like those I was forced to tolerate as a child. Nor will any sticky toddlers be allowed into my presence at all, much less permitted to put their sticky faces near mine.

also any male person i have just met for the first time who goes in for a hug is someone who is on my BANNED 4 LYF list
posted by poffin boffin at 9:11 AM on May 28, 2015


Honestly, it seems like the socially polite thing to do is just to pretend you didn't see them so nobody has to figure this shit out. Anyone have thoughts on this?

hiding
posted by poffin boffin at 9:11 AM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hah. I do that when I can get away with it. But it's hard on an empty street.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:30 PM on May 28, 2015


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