By SARAH MELAMED
For me, a greeting can be an unsynchronized mess; stepping on toes, bumping heads, uncoordinated handshakes. Nothing is more embarrassing than trying to high-five a kisser or going in for a hug when touching is not permitted.
Some people seem to have an innate understanding of body language, or quickly pick up cultural cues. Not me.
As a child living in New York, I was exposed to and learned to appreciate diversity but it also left me confused. Not only were we out of sync with some of the cultural norms of our neighborhood, roles were reversed.
My American father picked up double kissing while studying in Paris but my Israeli mother, who was from a long line of double kissers, dropped the habit. Their eclectic acquaintances from around the world introduced their own nuances to this social dance; handshakes, bear hugs, a peck on the cheek, a curt nod… At our house the hellos flowed smoothly but less from cultural similarity than long term friendship.
When I moved to Israel I had to learn an entirely new set of rules. Even within a homogenous group of people which Israel is not, age, gender, social standing, religion, familiarity and relationship all affect how a greeting ritual should be performed. Timing is essential and I find waiting for the other’s reaction doesn’t always avoid a faux pas since elders are often greeted first.
In fact, I’ve lost count of how many unsuspecting greeters I left kissing the air. So if I ever meet you, I apologize in advance for any awkwardness.
How easy has it been for you to assimilate the greeting norms of another culture?
Sarah Melamed is an American food blogger from Israel, interested in ethnic food, culture and history.