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!

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Map of COVID-19 cases for Jan. 10 to 16 by local health area. (BCCDC)
Agassiz, Harrison COVID-19 cases heading back towards weekly normal

The area saw 10 new cases between Jan. 10 and 16, after a one week high of 19

The Harrison Hot Springs Resort. Visitors to the resort currently pay a three per cent “hotel tax,” which is brought back to the district to help fund tourism initiatives. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)
Harrison hoping to expand hotel tax to Kent, parts of Fraser Valley

The expanded area would bring in more money for Tourism Harrison marketing

Russell Jonathon George Gurney was last seen in Chilliwack in mid-December. (RCMP photo)
RCMP ask for help to find missing Abbotsford man last seen in Chilliwack

Police and family are concerned for the well-being of Russell Jonathon George Gurney

The Harrison Hot Springs village office, as seen from the back. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)
Harrison village staff to get additional office space

The village has agreed to spend up to $75,000 of the COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant on a new portable

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

The top part of the fossil burrow, seen from the side, with feathery lines from the disturbance of the soil – thought to be caused by the worm pulling prey into the burrow. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)
PHOTOS: SFU researchers find evidence of ‘giant’ predatory worms on ocean floor

Fossils found the prove the existence of an ancient Taiwanese worm as long as two metres

RCMP officers provide policing for 63 B.C. municipalities under a provincial formula based on population. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. communities warned of upcoming RCMP unionization costs

Starting salaries for city police officers are 30% higher

Brandon Nathan Teixeira, charged in connection with a fatal 2017 shooting in South Surrey, is to return to court Feb. 2, 2021. (File photos)
Pre-trial conference set for accused in 2017 South Surrey killing

Brandon Nathan Teixeira set to return to Vancouver court Feb. 2

(Pxhere)
B.C. nurse suspended after using Tensor bandage to trap long-term care patient in room

Susan Malloch voluntarily agreed to a three-day suspension of her certificate of registration

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Abbotsford’s Skully White (left), who donated his kidney in December, has started a campaign to find other recipients and donors. The first candidate is retired police officer Gavin Quon. White owns and operates a hotdog stand, Lullys Food Experience, out of the Abbotsford Canadian Tire parking lot. (Facebook photo)
After donating his kidney, Abbotsford hotdog king starts donor campaign

Skully White donated his kidney to customer Tim Hiscock in December

Toronto-based director Michelle Latimer was recently scrutinized after years of claiming she was of Algonquin and Metis descent. (CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Haida activist calls for hefty fines, jail time against those who claim to be Indigenous

Filmmaker Tamara Bell proposing the Indigenous Identity Act – to dissuade ‘Indigenous identity theft’

Most Read