|Things I'm Looking Forward To Doing Now That I'm British: Number Four
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
4. Greeting people awkwardly. When I lived in the States, it took me years to learn to greet people using the appropriate firm handshake or hug (depending on the situation and/or level of familiarity with the greetee). I never felt like I was doing it right.
Then I moved here, and it became totally unclear how to greet anyone no matter what the situation or level of familiarity. People would often fail to introduce themselves or shake hands. Even after a lengthy period of conversation we still somehow wouldn't get round to exchanging actual names and I'd be reduced to asking others in private afterward who that was. If I couldn't remember (or failed to discover) their name on the second meeting, I'd feel uncomfortable going for the more familiar kiss on the cheek - and of course if you've decided that one kiss is appropriate, the other person will inevitably lean in for the second on the other cheek and then you have to do follow through but there's this pause that makes it clear you misjudged and oh, the embarrassment. And if you've decided to go for two kisses, maybe because you've already been at the pub for an hour and they've just arrived and you're overflowing with sauce-induced love for humanity in general and they've just finished a rotten day at work, they'll pull away and oh, the embarrassment.
The saving grace of this fiasco was learning that this is the right way to greet people in Britain. Now I have an excuse to do it forever. Hurrah!
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