Greetings: Are you a hugger or a kisser? (Or neither?)

Most of the time, when conversation turns to confusion over kissing as a greeting, people are talking about non-American customs (here are some examples of what is, reportedly, typical in parts of Europe). But I’ve found myself getting confused since moving cross-country (and back).

For American men, east or west, the norm seems to be a handshake. I’m sure there’s plenty of variation: some close male friends hug (often with some firm back-patting thrown in at the end), some do the combination of handshake and shoulder pats, some probably fist bump. But for American women, the more common gestures (outside of the office) tend to be cheek kisses or hugs.

When I moved to New York, I found I had to un-learn hugging as a greeting and get used to cheek-kissing. It was so confusing! Which side? Do just our cheeks touch? Or do my lips touch their cheek? Or is it an air kiss? (No.) It led to some fairly awkward “hellos” and “goodbyes.” And then, just as I had it down (and had come to really appreciate the gesture), we moved back to California. And everyone hugs!

The hug has its own problems: some folks bend at the waist and hug your shoulders and it just feels sort of insincere and limp. Give me a firm handshake over that any day! Some folks hug way too long and you start to wonder if you’re being consoled for something. Aron agrees that it’s the pull-away-time discrepancy that leads to awkwardness. And then there are those times when somebody stinks or is sweaty (maybe it’s you!) and you really envy those folks who are able to just back away and wave.

Honestly, I came to like the cheek kiss: you’re in and out and that’s about it. Once you get it down, you’re golden.

What do you and your friends do? (And what do you wish you could do?) I’d love to hear.

[Photo via Better Than Fine]

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