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The anatomy of a greeting

Greetings can be stressful. Add in cultural differences and the nuances become even more overwhelming. Andy Scott's book One Kiss or Two? helps readers move around social etiquette, say hello.

In One Kiss or Two ?: The Art and Science of Saying Hello, British writer Andy Scott answers every question you've ever had about greetings. From the subtle differences between different cultural greetings to the evolutionary story of "hello", Scott covers it all. As he writes in the book, a greeting is "the essence of what it means to live together as people".

"When not picked, our greeting rituals tend to be a mixture of instinctive behaviors and socially learned conventions that reveal both our evolutionary heritage and our cultural nature," explains Scott Culture Trip. His book is full of information, but he also reminds us that it is important not to over-emphasize when it comes to greeting someone. "Most of us know that it takes a lifetime to learn all of the quirks and absurdities that bind us together. Although it is often best to go with the flow and when we make an effort, people appreciate their culture suppose there is no need to pretend we are something we are not. "

According to Scott, a correct greeting has five steps:

Step one: discomfort display

This first step may be the most surprising, at least in the way Scott explains it. Here, each party shows how they changed their day to make room for the other person to be greeted. The easiest way to get up is when someone new enters the room. However, it can start long before you are in the same room as the person greeting you, especially if you have made an effort to greet someone, such as picking them up from the airport. This is when you show that the other person is important enough to take your time.

Step two: sighting and orientation

The second step is about practicality. Make eye contact and note the other person's body language. A wave is a common feature of this step; It helps make it clear that you have made contact with the right person as you approach them.

Do you go for a kiss on the cheek or a handshake? You have to pay attention to where to put your hand to know where to get it. This step can be the most anxious; It's easy to believe someone is leaning on a kiss on the cheek only to find out they just want a hug.

Step three: personal ad

This is the step that we most often associate with greetings: the actual handshake and kiss on the cheek. This doesn't actually have to involve physical contact, especially in traditions where an arch is more common.

Historically, these rituals were a show of the unarmed. Grabbing the arm was a greeting, but it was also a hook for hidden weapons. Although the original usage is rarely applicable now, the tradition remains.

Step four: greeting enhancer

Amplifiers are all variations of the standard greeting that add personification or greater respect or familiarity. This can be a deeper bow or a more complex handshake that the two standard pumps do.

Scott points out a quality that usually accompanies these moments: the embarrassment indicator. If the hug lasts a little too long, or if the kiss involves a cheek more than expected, there is an acknowledgment of that social stumble with some nervous laughter or brief apologies.

Step five: affirmations

Affirmations are typically verbal, as opposed to the previous four steps. You confirm the greeting and move on to the next part of the conversation. "It's a pleasure to meet you" and "How are you?" Are two examples.

Interestingly, the question "How are you?" With a given answer. The expected answer is "good" or "not bad". To give a more complex answer a high level of familiarity would be indicated, which is unsuitable for most greetings. This question is part of the small talk or acts as the "wrong first topic". These are topics that allow the conversation to begin, but are of little importance. Another example is chatting about the weather; It can take a minute to get the conversation started and few people will be offended by the recent heatwave.

Greetings are so wrapped up in cultural practices and personal relationships that they feel impossible to get right. But just think of the experience as a space for learning, not fear.

"When it comes to greetings and those first few moments of interactions, in our own self-centered way, most worry about what others think of them - which is liberating in some ways," says Scott. "As Eleanor Roosevelt put it, 'You wouldn't care so much about what others think of you if you saw how seldom they do it.'"

To learn more about the anatomy of greetings and other fascinating stories about hello, check out One Kiss or Two? The Art of Saying Hello by Andy Scott.