Meeting people is almost always a daunting encounter; do you shake their hand, give them a hug, kiss on the cheek? Is it one kiss, two kisses, three kisses? Then which side do you start on? Having both a ‘proper’ English upbringing but being ‘warmly’ part Turkish, I’ve always found the difference between Mediterranean and English rituals of greeting fascinating, and increasingly hard to navigate. I guess it could come into theories of ‘social systems’, how or how not to do things. Alternatively, maybe a greeting is a type of exchange, and Mauss’ three obligations of gift exchange could even be used to understand a greeting – though through less of an obligatory lens, but the three points (giving, receiving & repaying) could be useful: intent to kiss on the cheek, willingness to accept, and also ‘repaying’ with a similar act.
Earlier today, I met up with someone I hardly know, I’ve met him a few times whilst climbing with my university. He is a self-confessed hippie. We met to do a popular activity with hippies, or maybe the chilled out, and climbers alike, slack-lining. For those unfamiliar with this activity, it is when you ‘tie’ a thick rope, of sorts, between two trees generally, and attempt to walk across to the other side. It involves intense concentration and balance. We had set it up near the Meeting House and were giving it a go, when a friend of his, Maria, gracefully skipped up toward us. She was short, medium thick blonde hair, had shin-length tights & a skirt on and a light-weight black jacket. Full of energy and joy, she came our way.
“Oh it’s Maria” exclaimed my friend excited to see her (I feel like I can call him my friend).
“Hello!” she said openly our way. Harry, had explained she was Swedish to me earlier.
Pointing my way “Maria, this is Kevin” my friend said.
“Hey!” I said, looking her in the eye, feeling compelled to give her a hug and share in the energy she was pouring into the world. She extended her hand, rather shyly. I felt slightly cheated, having many european friends I have always been exposed to hugging when greeting them. It was odd to be greeting a Scandinavian, who from experience are even warmer than our mainland european friends, without a hug. I shook her hand – we both had firm handshakes – and then took a step back. Then a moment later, almost as if she was going to explode if she didn’t release her following phrase, she bursted out, “Can we hug? I feel in a hugging mood!” Both of our faces lit up, a big smile on her face and a big smile on mine. I jumped forward to embrace her which she also returned with a full, hearty hug. It was the kind of hug you get from a loved one after not seeing them for an extended period of time; I can remember days where my father would go away for months on end and upon return we would exchange a similarly emotional hug. The joy of that hug was like a burst of oxygen on a dying flame, suddenly coming to life and filling the immediate area with light & warmth. We both span around out of it and looked to Harry, and then all of us to the slack-line. With a quick, fluid motion, Maria had her shoes off and had flown across the two of us to have a go. We were all warm, happy; ready to relax through the activity that was uniting us.
The warmth of that hug, such a simple act of acceptance and friendliness was able to create the following 30 minutes of slack-lining into a dynamic and open moment of friendliness and joy. It makes me wonder: what would it be like if every time we saw someone or met someone we gave them an honest, open, warm, loving hug? Would the world be richer? Would we feel more accepted? Would we generally be more receptive towards having more sincere relationships with others without the preconception that we’re being judged? I wonder…
I’m very interested in hearing your comments/experiences!
Don’t forget you can also tweet at me @kevinkaraca
Photo Credits: JJ_peg, Flickr