Quite seriously, one of the hardest things to adapt to since moving to Austria, a mini culture shock if you like, is the greeting. Not the verbal greeting, which is a minefield in itself (having to consider how well you know the person, how old they are compared to you, whether you’re talking to one or more people, which dialect you or they speak; those two phrases, one for ‘hi’ and one for ‘bye’, depend on all of these factors. Apparently, you always duzen, that being to refer to someone in the informal, friendly way, above a certain height in the mountains anyway, as when you’re up that close to God, everyone is your friend), but the physical greeting.
This is my big problem. On home soil, I normally choose between the big hug or, a personal favourite, the awkward wave. So all this kissing-on-each-cheek business has really caught me out. Handshakes, sure, I can deal with them, but will it be a handshake that pulls you in for a kiss? And will what looks like a hug actually be a grab on the shoulder and kiss on each cheek?
Is there an etiquette manual somewhere? I’ve already face-smooshed one guy who went for kissing while I went for a hug, and I’ve touched one poor girl inappropriately when I opted for the handshake vs. her shoulder-grab-kiss-on-each-cheek. I’m a newbie, help me out.
You know what I think? I think we should all learn from the Thai and just put your hands together and bow your head; no touching of hands, cheeks, bodies, no hierarchy of what you do to whom in whichever situation. Something universal like that would save me a whole load of trouble and embarrassment.