Harrison Happenings: Learning how to greet the world

Handshakes, hugs and howdys among international favourites

It happened at the Vancouver Airport, one of the main meeting places of the world.

It was the year 2011 and I had come to greet a relative who would shortly arrive for our family reunion.

With me were one of my nieces and her companion, both French — one by birth and one by choice. When my relative arrived and saw me, he indicated that he would like to be greeted the French way — kissing first the right side, then the left side and finally the right side again of his face.

It could have been embarrassing but was not because the gentleman in question was my brother-in-law whom I know for more than 65 years.

Also, I remembered that the French way of greeting each other has become more and more the European greeting of choice:  just watch their political get-togethers on TV.

The episode brought to my mind,  however, how much smaller the world has become and how important it is to keep-up on the ways we greet each other.

Rudy, my late brother who was a Lufthansa host at the Montreal Airport for several years, used to entertain us with stories of German passengers who greeted each other with only a handshake, no matter how much time had gone by since they had seen each other last.

Mind you, there are differences in handshakes, too. They can be formal and short, longer and warmer and they may include a pat on the back or on the shoulder. The Russians kiss, but in a slightly different ritual than the French, the English politely ask each other how they are doing (How do you do?) and the Italians, a very warm people, seemingly have no prescribed way of making their guests welcome, they just do!

Here, on this continent, there are all kinds of “Hellos”, “Howdys”, “Hi’s” and “Nice to meet you’s”, the last one usually with a brief handshake.

My preferred way of greeting is the “all Canadian bear hug.” I guess that, after belonging to the Harrison Hiking Group for over 20 years where we greeted each other in this way every Wednesday before going on a hike, it has become a habit hard to shake. And besides, I truly love it the best.

In some countries, like New Zealand and our continent’s “far north”, for instance, people greet each other by rubbing their noses.

My brother-in-law, who has spent much time in China and Japan and studied their cultures extensively, often talks about their way of greeting each other, both the way it was and the way it is now.  One very old and traditional Chinese custom was bowing to each other, a practice which required learning its rules and regulations before even attempting to try it.

Later in time, the practice of bowing became an acquired custom in Japan, too.  Interestingly, while it is still being practiced in Japan, it largely has become a custom of the past in China. Luckily, the younger generations of the world do not take these things too seriously anymore.

During a multicultural dinner gathering I attended just recently, I was seated opposite a young man from Japan, here on business. At the end of the evening we laughed and wondered how to say goodbye to each other. He solved the situation perfectly:  first we shook hands, then we bowed slightly, finally we hugged and everything was covered!

I think, given how small the world has become and how interacting we now are, perhaps, it would be a good idea to print lists of international ways to greet each other and hand them out along with passports, citizenship documents, etc.  Or, we all should take a hint from the Italians and not worry so much about the formalities of greeting but just be warm and welcoming to each other!

Just Posted

Agassiz Community Gardens hoping to find new home at old McCaffrey school

The society has been looking for a new location since its previous gardens were sold in October

Kent looking to replace Ferny Coombe pool with indoor facility

The facility being built is dependent on grant funding from the province and federal government

Escape room brings ‘out of the box’ activity to Agassiz

AESS alumni and teacher developed the concept to bring teamwork-based entertainment to the town

Prices still rising, Chilliwack real estate back in balanced territory

Local market is steadier compared to points west with higher increase in average sale price

B.C. storm totals $37M in insured damages

The December storm wreaked havoc on B.C.’s south coast

B.C. opioid crisis to get same world-renowned treatment approach as HIV/AIDS

A program that focuses on treatment as prevention will roll out Jan. 17

Former welfare clients still owed money, B.C. Ombudsperson says

Investigation found 2,600 people docked illegally for earning income

Prince George could get province’s second BC Cannabis Store

The first brick-and-mortar government retail location opened in Kamloops on Oct. 17

B.C. chowdery caught up in ‘rat-in-soup’ scandal to close

Crab Park Chowdery will be shutting down Jan. 20

Teen vaping is an epidemic: US government

E-cigarettes are now the top high-risk substance used by teenagers, outpacing cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana

Caribou herd disappears from Kootenays after last cow relocated

One cow from the South Selkirk herd and two from the Purcells were moved this week

Vancouver councillors unanimously approve motion declaring climate emergency

Vancouver joins cities like Los Angeles and London

B.C. mayor criticizes school trustees ahead of paid trip to China

Brad West believes trip is unethical, and points to added safety concerns as relations grow tense

‘I never said there was no collusion,’ Trump lawyer says

President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani says he has ‘never said there was no collusion’

Most Read