Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Joan Of Arc by Rosetti, kissing her sword

I need to come clean about something. After more than 8 years now, I still haven’t cracked the right way to say hello in London.
Usually, I say “Hi” or “Hey” and it does the trick. But the responses may vary. It can be ‘Good day mate!’, ‘Are you alright?’ or ‘How do you do?’. Sometimes, I even get the silent look and I feel like a total failure. Sigh.

In short, I never get it right. However, that’s not the worst part. My real greeting nightmare is: when do you kiss?  In France, we are all serial smoochers. Depending on the region, you have to do 2, 3 or even 4 pecks on the cheeks. Here, I simply don’t know. Apparently, the rule seems to be one light kiss on the cheek for your female friends only. Don’t ask me what you do with the boys, I have no idea whatsoever. None. I have seen some do air kisses, hugs, or just handshakes. I think that there must be a hidden addendum on the Magna Carta explaining whom you can kiss. Mental note to self: I need to call the British Museum to ask them.

So what do you do over here? I sometimes wish I were a stuck-up British man who would only do handshakes. Some of my male colleagues told me that they had never kissed anyone (to say hello, obviously. Mind you, they didn’t elaborate so it is open to all interpretations). I couldn’t believe it. I have tried to kiss male friends (in a friendly way, if you must know) only to be greeted with a clumsy handshake and a funny look. OK, lesson learned.

Actually, not quite.  It took me a bit more to learn my lesson and to NEVER kiss a British guy without prior warning, explanation and a business case (all three conditions are mandatory). I hadn’t moved for a very long time to London and I made the mistake of kissing British friend/colleague to say hello. The guy slightly turned his head and I almost kissed the corner of his lips. I was very embarrassed indeed and had to apologise to make it clear that I didn’t fancy him (at all, actually). And then he said “The pleasure was all mine”.

I couldn’t believe it. Well, I don’t like British kisses but you have got to love the British sense of humour, right?

What about you? How do you deal with the kissing conundrum?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London