How We Say Hello

I was at the annual family Christmas party last weekend, which means the dessert table had more selection than most buffets and every cheese served as an appetizer came with a story.

But before all the food gets inhaled, you have to say hello to everyone. There were about 30 people at this thing.

It was like, Press Your Luck: Holiday Edition because you never know which relative is fighting a cold and is going to pass it on to you.

In Italian culture, there is a double-cheek kiss greeting that is normally done. That involves two people engaging in a half hug, before kissing the left cheek and then the right cheek.

I say “kissing” but sometimes the angle makes it so you’re making the smooching sound but not actually connecting with the other person’s face.

But all Italians are made differently and it’s hard to know which ones are going for the double-cheek kiss, and which ones are just giving a hug.

Sometimes, I’ll go in for the hug but the grip of the other person isn’t a “hug grip” it’s a “half hug grip” which means they want to do the cheek kiss greeting, so then I quickly have to adjust and play it off like my head didn’t already bypass their face.

I’m telling you, it’s so complicated and unnecessary.

Can we not just hug it out? Hold me for three minutes if you have to.

When I was a kid, I hated when older people did the double-cheek kiss routine with me because their thick perfume would always get all over my face and linger for the next three hours.

And there’d always be those who would say, “I don’t want to get too close, I’ve been sick for a week” and then lean in and transfer their germs to me, anyway.

Excuse me while I go Windex my face.

*Don’t use Windex on your face. That was a joke.

I don’t mind a good hug. Can we stick to hugs? That’s how I greet most people, if not a handshake.

With both those gestures, you kind of mime what you want to do and the other person complies. A double-cheek kiss is a hug that calls an audible at the last second, and if one person doesn’t know it’s coming, awkwardness ensues.

Yesterday, I greeted my Nonna with a nice big hug as I always do, but because of our height discrepancy, when she went to pat me on the back it turned into a few pats on the butt, as if I just hit a walk off home run.

That was a new greeting, but it was from Nonna and Nonna is the best.

Season’s Greetings – they can be complicated, sometimes.

How do you say hello? Do you hug? Is it an awkward wave from two feet away? A handshake?

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About Paul

I think of my blog as an all-you-can-read buffet. There's something for everyone and complimentary mints at the door as you leave.
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48 Responses to How We Say Hello

  1. Great post, Paul! And I know what you mean. My mother’s side of the family are very outgoing and are huggers. My father’s side of the family are very reserved and rarely hug. And since they all live in the same community and are often at the same functions, it is easy to forget which ones are the huggers and which ones I should just share a meaningful head-nod with … or perhaps a handshake in moments of great emotion.

    To make it worse, I took after my father’s side of the family, so I don’t like a lot of extraneous touching either. So when one of my aunts from my mother’s side grabs on to me for a great big bosomy hug and flu-transferring cheek-kiss I often freeze and lock up, not quite sure what I should be doing. And, yes, definitely pass the Windex afterwards!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      The meaningful head-nod is probably the most under appreciated greeting. It’s simple and no germs or awkwardness is shared.

      I’ve known some people who don’t like to be touched, or hugged, so they’ll just give people a high five. I don’t suppose that would work with your aunt though lol

      Liked by 1 person

      • The MHN is my go-to move in most social situations. No muss; no fuss; no viruses.

        And I am getting quite a chuckle out of the image of me high-fiving my aunt! Ha ha! I can hear her now muttering, “What’s wrong with that boy?”

        Like

  2. Aww this was cute! And I’m glad you actually made the post! I was waiting for it.

    Have you never seen “my big fat Greek wedding”? Cos then you wouldn’t be telling lies about not using windex on your face lol

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Becky Turner says:

    I saw your tweet about this so I’m assuming that’s where this post came from haha. We’re not a real touchy-feely family, which is good for me. When my mom’s brother comes over, I’ll hug him when he leaves, and I think the only people I hug on my dad’s side are my grandparents. We’re not Italian so I don’t have to deal with the whole double-cheek kiss/hug thing. That would be incredibly awkward for me.

    But wouldn’t people stick with what they’ve done in the past? Like if they’ve always done it then you can expect them to do it, and those who just hug keep hugging? Or am I expecting too much out of people?

    And YES look up the Windex from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It’s very funny.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      So lucky you don’t have to deal with the cheek kiss thing. I think I’ve narrowed it down to certain aunts who do it but they’re not always consistent with it so it’s a guessing game every time we lean in. This way of greeting each other is probably an every day thing over in Italy.

      I looked up the clip. The guy just pulls out Windex in random situations and uses it haha I approve.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. rebbit7 says:

    I’m an American who’s been living in France for the past four years. The French do something similar like the Italians with “la bise,” and depending which region you are in the country, it can range from two to four kisses. Even after living in France for several years, I still don’t like doing the bise. Much rather do the “American wave” where there’s no physical contact involved!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. peckapalooza says:

    I’m really not much of a hugger. But so many people in my family are. So it’s always, always an awkward hug. It’s not so bad with the ladies in the family. Those are the hugs that I can expect, I know how to make my approach. With the guys, it’s a little more of a guessing game. Do we just straight in for the full on hug? Do we do the bro handshake that moves into a hug (with two back claps)? Side hug? Just a handshake? It’s like playing Rock, Paper, Scissors… But there is no winner.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Ohh the dreaded guy greeting. Normally I prefer those to be a handshake, but if the other person starts pulling me in for the bro handshake that moves into a hug, I go along with it because I’m helpless at that point. For me, full on hugs with guys is reserved for sad occasions like funerals, or if we’re saying goodbye for a long time. But you’re right, it is rock, paper, scissors with no winner.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. lindasschaub says:

    Another funny post Paul – wish I discovered you before now. Out family was small and the only hugger was my grandmother and “Nanny” was like your “Nonna” in that as I grew taller (I’m 5′ 9″ tall) she grew shorter. I swear she didn’t even reach my shoulder anymore … where did the years and the inches go when it came to her shrinking?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. micqu says:

    Nonna is the best indeed. 💜 The Italian part of the family greets the same as described in your post. Add a friendly pat on the cheek or both cheeks squeezed until they are red (and blue). Luxembourgish people greet with a handshake or… Three kisses. Usually left-right-left. But it sometimes looks like a puckered lips dance. If you are lucky you can avoid the smooch right on your mouth. If you like someone, you touch their arm or shoulder with a hand, if you don’t you just pretend kiss, making your cheeks touch while making a kissing sounds.

    Since when is greeting and kissing this complicated?!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      That sounds so complicated! I vaguely remember having to do the three kisses as a kid, but I can’t remember why. I just find it awkward, especially back then when everyone else was 5 times my age. Just leave me alone, I’m a little kid haha

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post!
    I am 100% Italian. Both my parents are Italian (Calabrese) and I’ve always had to hug and kiss both cheeks at any event to everyone there… even people i didnt want to. I guess its just a habit now because my husband who isnt Italian hates kissing both cheeks.
    Have a great one!
    Jessica

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Kara's Kloud says:

    Oh gosh, how I dread holiday parties with the family. Sure, they’re all great people, but I never know who to hug or what. I’m not a huge fan of personal contact either, so it makes for a lovely awkward exchange when people come at me and I dodge them.

    Thank goodness no one does the cheek kiss thing in our fam. Let’s be real, no one likes each other that much in my family to do that lol. On the bright side, I haven’t had any butt pats yet, so I must be doing something right 🙂

    I hope you had a nice holiday, Paul!

    Like

    • Paul says:

      I feel like most people dread holiday parties and yet no one ever puts an end to them. We’re all merely doing what we think we should be doing.When you said you dodge people as they come toward you, I’m picturing you jumping behind a couch or casually blending in with a Christmas tree lol

      Thanks, Kara! Hope your holidays were great, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Lmao! “Excuse me while I go windex my face” I’m Italian so I know your dilemma. I’ve always been forced to do the double face kiss. Once one of my zia’s missed my cheek and kissed my ear. I was deaf for an hour in my right ear. Why do they make such loud kissing noises?! Whyyy!?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      LOL your ear?? Why does this stuff happen to you? Italians, in general, are loud people so I guess it only makes sense the kissing noise is equally loud? I don’t know. This is hilarious though.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Rea says:

    I don’t get those people who don’t like to hug! Hugging is so relaxing and just down right good. Anyone who knows me knows I am a hugger. I even make my friends who don’t like hugs give me a hug anyway. Also, apparently science says that if you hug someone (or even your dog) before you eat, it releases hormones that will allow you to eat 100+ less calories. Hugs are an essential part of a healthy diet

    Liked by 2 people

  12. This is so funny. I prefer not to be touched at all, but can sometimes get away with a half hug/not really a kiss on the cheek and that’s sort of okay lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Lol this seems to be the consensus among bloggers – the less contact, the better. Someone should do a study and see if it’s because writers prefer to express themselves through words rather than touch.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Laura says:

    “A hug that calls an audible at the last second” – truer words were never spoken. The Italian greeting is complex. For some it’s all in, every time, double kiss no matter if it’s the cousin you met once when you were six or the family you eat with every Sunday. I kinda feel like face to face contact is serious personal space invasion and better come with intimate relationship status and DEFINITELY no overpowering perfume. Hugs? Hugs I can do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      I agree with all of this! Face to face contact is an intimate thing. Not sure if it should be done by people who hardly see each other. Hugs are the way to go. Just hugs.

      Like

  14. I didn’t know you were Italian Paul!!! I had so many Italian friends growing up and our customs are similar because my family also “kisses” on cheeks and hugs at parties. That happened a lot last week at a holiday party we went to and am sure it will happen tomorrow at our New Year’s party! Hope you had a nice Christmas, happy new year Paul!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This post reminded me of what happened to me just a couple days ago. Ran into a former co-worker who I hadn’t seen in four years. We said hello at a distance, approached each other quickly…and simultaneously shook hands while applying a half-hug to each other with our other arms. It was amazing how choreographed it turned out. Not awkward at all…but if we both had time to think about how to greet we probably would have indeed made it awkward. I guess sometimes the best reactions are those that leave no time to dwell on how to react!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Or you could be me and go in at the wrong angle, wrong side and end up underneath their armpit, choked by an elbow, wondering where you went wrong in life.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I awkwardly stand with my hands in my pockets and smile while saying hello hoping that physical contact doesn’t have to happen. If someone wants to hug me I kind of keep my feet in place and lean forward that way I dont actually have to touch someone for very long. If someone wants to shake my hand I kind of fidget for a second take a deep breath and hope that its not going to be one of those handshakes where the other person pulls you in for a hug too the very thought makes my neck muscles tighten up. Hugs scare me. Once I got away with just poking the inside of my cousins hand with my finger it was seen as rude but I was super uncomfortable we were meeting for the first time.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Ely says:

    Italians and Hispanics have a lot in common. Except we do the one sided air-cheek-kiss where we don’t really kiss the cheeks we squish our cheeks together and kiss the air lol 😂 sometimes it’s awkward because I mean I do it with EVERYONE but some
    Men who don’t know women will try to give a handshake but I always end up being the awkward one who ignores for the handshake and goes in for a half-hug and a cheek sandwich lol. Come to think of it in friendlier than I thought you know??! Kids are the best because they always give their heads when the adults want a kiss lol!! The kids thing is exhausting though at big parties. Sometimes I’ll be like HEY I LOVE YOU ALL BUT THERE ARE JUST TOO MANY OF YOU SO GOODNIGHTTTT!!! And walk away because who has time for a hundred goodbye kisses my goodness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Kissing the air? So it’s like a fish kiss. I just made that up, but I think it’s accurate. Hahah you sound so welcoming! If the greeting is awkward, you can add to the awkwardness by whispering random things to the person while you’re cheek to cheek like, “Can I borrow a staple remover?” (Why do we do this in our comments to each other? We just go on forever and make stuff up hahaha).

      Like

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