Hugging, kissing, talking – the wonders of international hello

"Hug" "juliamoved" "kisses"
So good to see you

I used to wonder where she is every so often, raising my head from the laptop. But today I found out that it can be beneficial to have Sara home in bed with newspapers and tea. It makes me support those media clipping services who claim that no computer can replace a reading human being. Of course they can’t. They can’t replace a human being making Bi-Bim-Bap either. But the point is, Sara found the one article I wanted to read after a long day talking to french, english and a mix of Scandinavian colleagues.

“Don’t touch me, I am British” develops in detail why Americans won’t touch strangers, the French won’t talk to them, but Brits will neither touch nor talk to them. It takes the example of greeting habits, where the French kiss each other and can freely choose to flirt in parallel or keep it purely professional, where as Americans hug a bit helplessly only touching shoulders to then rub each others back to confirm this was in no way sexual.

I would like to add to this to my personal greeting confusion. Coming from Germany I was quite used to two kisses, starting left if I am not mistaken. Good friends you might even give a smack on the mouth and with the Swiss you’d always end up in odd situations bumping heads or withdrawing too early because they kiss three times starting on the other side.

Swedes don’t kiss at all. Not from tradition anyway. Some might, coming back from a trip to Europe still being in the habit. But normally: they hug – and don’t platonically rub backs. They full-body-hug without being sexual – which must be really hard to adapt to for US citizens, according to the article in the Financial Times.

It was a bit weird even to me when I moved up north, but I find it quite warm and cosy now that I’ve gotten used to it. It is easy: you put your head on the other persons left shoulder. There is a short moment of smiling serenity before you push back and look at each other (after hugging, not so much before). Then you say how cosy (mysigt) it is to either meet or have met and part in peace.

Highly recommended.

Just stay sharp: don’t draw those Swiss, French and Germans to your chest before meeting their eyes. They might not even give you the first of their three kisses or refuse to talk indefinitely (French).


  1. Funny, you’d quote me on this. I did think of you when I read the FT piece. The one thing Simon didn’t explore on though is the way we sign letters – with love, bises, or just the ever charming puss&kram!

  2. The way we greet in writing would therefore be worth further investigation. N’est-ce pas?

  3. But in Brussels and Strasbourg everybody cheek-kiss. It makes me sick seeing scandinavian EU parliament members put up with that. Creating minimal physical greeting standards – because there’s no way all europeans will feel the same way about this – should at least be one of the main topics at the coctail parties.

    And, in Sweden not many hugged ten years ago, especially not men, and especially not rural men. That “unswedish” thing is as new as cafe latte.

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