Sunday, July 9, 2006

Shoulder embrace

A very simple thing that seems to have caught us out in an embarrassing way is the shoulder embrace (for want of a better description). A few times when involved in a greeting, or leaving a situation with new acquaintances – our guest or host has leaned in for an embrace. This has seen us automatically, without thinking, kiss, or brush their cheek with our lips. 

Of course, the level of intimacy differs in Australia, but the norm is a single kiss placed on the cheek, just brushing the cheek or possibly an ‘air kiss’ with a sound of a kiss delivered close to the cheek. Kisses on the lips are usually reserved for family members, although I do have a couple of friends (male and female, and a little older) that place a kiss full on the lips during a greeting and parting. A loud and ostentatious air kiss is often parodied with reference to friendships of a superficial nature or with ‘affected’ or pretentious people. 

The ‘kiss’ part of a greeting does not seem to be what is done here. The hug is shoulder contact only, and it has been a little embarrassing when the kiss part is not reciprocated. Our friend Gretchen helped diffuse the situation a little when Paul ‘went the peck’ and told us that “We are not big on kissing here”. Of course there are exceptions. We have friends, Ann and Allen, a married couple who kiss the cheek during an embrace… Perhaps it is because they are from Virginia (in the east) and non-kissing is a mid-west thing? I will have to look into this. 

It reminds me of the situation in France with the multiple kiss. The number of kisses is totally dependent upon where one is from in France. In Paris, two kisses is the norm, four in some places to the west, and three when down south. I definitely take the lead from the French, but it is well understood that a multiple kiss of some predetermined number is to be expected, with little regard to age, gender or social standing. 

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