It simply cannot be just me who is hopelessly confused when it comes to greeting friends, relatives, or anyone else you may encounter. However much practice I get, I never seem to be able to apply the absolutely, unequivocally correct greeting to the specific person in the specific context.
Whether it is saying hello or goodbye, I just never know exactly which greeting is most appropriate in the particular circumstance. Handshake? Hug? Kiss on cheek? One? Two? Kiss on lips? High five? God knows.
The rules of this custom are so ambiguous that I would wager you are, like me, plunged into a completely undesirable awkward situation on what seems to be a daily basis. One must always be wary of so many factors when considering their approach – often including their relationship with the person, formality of the context and surrounding company whenever addressing anyone.
When you see someone every day, or even on more than one separate occasion in the same day, is the same extravagant greeting required each and every time?
If you make out that you are in an extreme rush to get somewhere, is it socially acceptable to avoid a greeting altogether and merely nod dismissively? Will you be cast out by society if you do this?
If you are in a room of more than 3 others, do you still have to acknowledge all of them individually, or will an overall, all-encompassing address suffice?
A particularly delicate situation is, when walking, you spot someone you know walking toward you. If they recognise you, the fun and games begin. Panic will immediately set in. If they are more than 15 feet away, there is just no way that you can maintain eye contact for the amount of time it will take for you to cross paths. That would be weird, if not very unsettling. As they will be too far away to hear you accurately, to engage them in conversation is out of the question. So is a shout of ‘hey’, as anyone who is between the two of you will assume it is intended for them.
More often than not, you will opt for complete silence, avoid any further eye contact, and continue walking until you finally reach each other. Then, you must, in a split-second, decide which greeting is most appropriate. You can’t react spontaneously, as if having just recognised them, as you both know this has already happened. This is when you freeze. Which greeting? WHICH GREETING?!
In a bid to stop any situation like this from arising again, I have created this:
The Foolproof Greeting Manual (suitable for almost all social situations)*
2 guys, close friends – weird hand cupping high five thing, then an immediate embrace which involves your left shoulder knocking into their right shoulder.
2 guys, friends – weird hand cupping high five thing.
2 guys, acquaintances – upwards nod, awkward smile.
2 guys, spoke once ages ago – downwards nod, immediate avoidance of further eye contact.
1 guy, 1 girl, good friends – kiss on one cheek then hug (kiss on both cheeks if European or posh).
1 guy, 1 girl, friends – either: kiss on one cheek and no hug, or hug but no kiss on cheek.
1 guy, 1 girl, acquaintances – cheesy smile but no embrace.
Greetings with family members are a different story altogether, with things like closeness of family, exact relationship, length of time since last meeting all coming into the equation. This may be addressed in a further blog (if I can be bothered).
I hope the above guide is helpful, and goes some way to clearing up your horrific confusion whenever you see, well, anyone.
*For best results, carry with you at all times and consult frequently.