How have I made it 10 months without broaching the subject of kissing?! It seems like now is as good a time as ever to introduce you to my new reality.
Let me start by saying that I am an American, and I give hugs. At least, that’s what I used to be able to claim. Prior to moving to Europe, friends & family (and occasionally, a close colleague) received hugs from me. If you happen to be my aunt, grandma, or parent, then possibly one kiss on the cheek. To me, this was “normal.” Then, I moved to Europe and completely stepped out of my comfort zone.
I met one of my new bosses last summer in St. Louis, and I received a kiss on both cheeks. Not a hand shake…two kisses. On our first meeting. I visited Italy in the past, so I partially knew to expect this. When I arrived in Switzerland, I learned that the Swiss (at least in Canton Vaud) give THREE kisses when they greet you (and when they say good-bye)…one on one cheek, one on the other cheek, and a final one on the first cheek. The problem is that the Swiss are the only ones who rock three kisses, so whenever I’m with Italians, Germans, Spanish, or other European friends & colleagues, they only give two kisses. To make matters even more complicated, our Latin American friends traditionally only give one kiss.
You may think, “that’s nice, Megan, but it can’t be that awkward; it’s not like you’re kissing strangers.” And that, my friend, is where you are wrong. I have received kisses from vendors, colleagues, and new acquaintances on first meeting! Then, there’s the situation of interacting with so many different nationalities here. You almost have to ask “three kisses?” mid-kiss to make sure you’re not left going for the third Swiss kiss when they are only going for two. Or you have a Latin friend only going for one kiss. So much confusion! (And yes, I’ve come really close to unintentionally kissing a few friends on the lips because of this mix-up.)
At the beginning, I kept forgetting where I was. I would go for the hug only to realize the person intended to greet me with a kiss (or three!). 10 months later, my opinion is that you should be required to give as many kisses as are appropriate for the country you are in…when you’re in Switzerland, you give three kisses; in France, two; etc. This would help to eliminate the number of awkward moments I have. The other problem I’m attempting to solve is what to do with my hands. All of this consideration just to greet someone “hello!”
Why am I waiting until now to tell you about this? Well, I just had meetings in Paris this week, and I was greeted with kisses from at least three colleagues on our very first meeting. It really is endearing, but after all of this time, it still surprises me.
The French team is always so hospitable when we are in Paris. This week, they treated us to a lovely meal at a traditional Parisian bistro, which was delicious!
They also surprised us with snowglobes of Paris, which will be displayed on my desk first thing Monday morning.
And of course, it was fun to see one of the girls who just moved back to Paris from Vevey a week or so ago!
Here’s hoping I can give the correct number of kisses the rest of the time I’m living in Europe. And here’s hoping that I don’t forget where I am and create any awkward moments when I’m visiting the States. I apologize in advance. You’ve been warned. Remind me that I can revert back to the hug when I see you!