Thursday, September 17, 2009


By Judith Garfield

Comedian Kathy Griffin says, “I was brought up right. I talk about people behind their backs. It’s called manners.”

Ahh, the rules of etiquette. What exactly is proper these days? Especially when it comes to meeting people and saying hello. Shaking hands can seem so formal, yet a cheek kiss may be overly familiar. I wish there were some Federal guidelines for greeters. It can be downright embarrassing recovering from badly mistimed social greetings.

You extend your hand and none is offered in return. Instead you realize they’re coming in for the air kiss. But which side. Quick, make a decision and go with it. You go right, they go left, and a mid air collision occurs. Now you must decide if you should ignore the crash and go for a double or was one sufficient.

It seems whatever I decide to do it’s instinctively wrong. The worst outcome is the dreaded pull back, when you go in for the second air kiss only to find the other person has drawn away after one. Can you say awkward?

My family considers me a bit affected in my greeting customs. I always try to go with the air kiss, mostly because there are some people who insist on planting big fat wet ones right on the cheek. Don’t they know this plays havoc with blush? And five o’clock shadow as a visual can look sexy, but who wants to get up close and personal with sandpaper?

Of course these days there is also the concern of germ spreading, what with the swine flu pandemic. Doctors now advise not shaking hands at all. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s medical correspondent, has jokingly advocated the elbow bump as a greeting. Not a bad idea in my opinion. I like it and intend to popularize it.

Or how about just a good old-fashioned nod? Or the Chinese/Japanese style, palms pressed together with a slight bow of the head? Or the snap and point with a ‘hey’ and a smile?

It’s all very stressful. My wish for you is that you make the appropriate choice and all your greetings are warmly received.

With extended elbow, I say TTFN. (ta ta for now)


Anonymous said...

Loveless cook: I hear your pain. What I have always found interesting is when you cross the line from handshake to cheek kiss with someone you never wanted to cross that line with. But once you do, there is never going have to cheek kiss them forever more, otherwise, you might as well just slap them across the cheek rather than kiss it.

Anonymous said...

It IS very stressful, LC. Especially in business. Who gets your hand and who gets your cheek?
You can definitely kill a deal with the wrong answer. I envy the Thai people ----they use the WAI --a gentle nod with hands pressed together. No guesses, except how low to bow to show proper deference. I suppose every culture has its greetings conundrums.

Big Shantz said...

good lord. forget about the manual greeting, what the hell is one supposed to say to all these people that one must meet? i say don't leave the kitchen.

Big Shantz said...

of course we're all wondering what the French do:

French greeting tips

In some countries, it's acceptable to greet a salesclerk, for example, with just a smile, but not in France - always start out with a polite bonjour. Even when entering a waiting room or boarding a bus, the French will mutter bonjour as a general greeting to everyone within earshot.

In addition, if you know the person or are being introduced, you're also expected to either faire la bise (kiss cheeks) or se serrer la main (shake hands). When arriving at work or school, this means you should go around the room and individually greet each person.