I have been in Florence for nine months now, but there’s something that still really gets me about the culture here.
I still get that really embarrassing, uncomfortable amount of nervous sweat that accumulates on my palms when I have to say goodbye or hello to someone. The things that go through my head would surely make my acquaintance laugh hysterically if they could only read my mind.
It really never fails, no matter who I am meeting or how long I have known them, the second I am forced to touch them there isthis dancing in my head; a kinda of mental jumping from foot-to-foot if you will. In the States it’s standard to shake someone’s hand when you meet them, wave if you know them and hug if you’re close. In Holland they kiss three times on the cheeks and couple that with a little embrace after they’ve met you once. In Italy the general consensus is that you shake hands and once you know someone then you deliver the standard kiss on each cheek and half-hug or handshake. There is always this fear that I’m going to land one right on the lips of my recently new friend or worse, teacher or boss! Same goes for Lorenzo’s parents who like to change it up to keep me on my toes. Nice American hug here, kiss today, handshake tomorrow. Sometimes it’s solely this reason that I get nervous about seeing Lorenzo’s parents, never mind the language barrier! What gives?
Sometimes, as non-Europeans grow more accustomed to being in Italy, they start trying to change it up. The least you expect from your American friend is the comfort of a nice high five and a pat on the back. But no, they have to go and get all European on you and I generally end up in one of those ass-out, awkward side-hugs that Vince Vaughn mentions in Wedding Crashers.
I don’t know what it takes for people to adapt to a new culture, but I’m telling you, I think these Europeans have it out for me. They just enjoy watching foreigners squirm, that’s what it is. It’s been nine months and I’ve forfeited a lot of personal space in that nine months, but somehow, this one still gets me.
What are some of your awkward greeting stories or interesting greetings you have encountered on your travels?