Nancy [who may or may not be in the process of evicting her unborn baby from her uterus at this very moment] wrote an expose a couple of days ago about the dilemma of hugging. And since it’s bleedin’ Valentines Day [which I’m not going to acknowledge because I’m disgruntled at the fact that the Icelandic version of the Hallmark people have begun systematically marketing this day here when we have two perfectly good days for this sort of thing that moreover are traditionally Icelandic and thus much more interesting in my books *gasps for air*] I thought a post about kissing and hugging might be in order. Consider it a lesson in etiquette – for when you come to Niceland and want to do as the Nicelanders do.
Now, contrary to what many people believe, Icelanders do not rub their noses together when they meet each other or when they kiss. That said, Icelanders are pretty tactile when they meet. They will kiss one another on the cheek if they know and are fond of each other – but not at the first meeting or introduction, in which case they will shake hands. And those handshakes must be firm – none of those limp-fish shakes, unless you want to be instantly labelled a wuss.
In my North American incarnation, I was not in the habit or kissing or hugging my friends when I met up with them. Whereas in my European incarnation, I am. To the point where I cannot comfortably meet up with a friend without that single peck on the cheek on greeting and saying goodbye – which may or may not be accompanied by a hug.
The proximity of the hugging depends very much on the level of intimacy. There are brief, cursory hugs, shoulder-to-shoulder hugs, back-patting hugs, and what Nancy calls ‘full-frontal hugs’ but which I would probably describe as ‘bear hugs’. In most cases, I would say, the latter are reserved for immediate family members [i.e. spouse and children] whereas the ‘lean-forward shoulder-to-shoulder’ hugs are for the rest of the family [siblings, parents, etc.] and the brief, back-patting hugs for, well, anyone who’s not comfortable with any of the other types of hugs but who still wants to, um, hug.
Meanwhile, kissing is de rigueur up here and as I said, I cannot imagine meeting a friend or close acquaintance without the customary cheek-kissing. Indeed, I can recall the odd awkward moment when I have impulsively and without thinking alighted on a person from, say, the US or UK, ready with a cheek-to-cheek kiss, only to find the object of my kissing has suddenly gone stone-cold and absolutely rigid. One kiss is the norm; two kisses are also OK but denote a level of familiarity that is slightly more distant.
And there is one Very Important Factor that cannot be stressed enough: You Must Kiss Correctly. There is nothing worse than someone actually touching your cheek and planting a slobbering kiss on it. [yech!] The lips should not touch the cheek at all [unless you’re on very intimate terms, like share the same bed] but should be directed at the air next to the cheek. Peck. Like that.
So now that you’ve been duly informed of how we do things up here, how about you? Hug, kiss? One peck, or two? How about a little [V-day] missive in the comments to say how you celebrate meeting others…?
MEANWHILE, WE HAVE SPRING…
… While parts of the US are snowed under, including New York City. Incidentally, did you know that Iceland has the same average yearly temperatures as NYC? I bet you did not, unless you’re a serious Icelandophile or a native. But this is proof: while the Big Apple is in the throes of winter, we’re practically sunbathing out on the lawn. [They’ll get us back in the heat of summer, I know.] Our temps are due to plummet later in the week, but right now they are 4°C. Sunrise was at 09.27 and sunset is due for 17.58.