Rules of engagement: a succinct guide to greeting people

Meeting people, whether for the first time or otherwise, is fraught with physical awkwardness. There’s much more to consider than simply launching straight in for a kiss on the cheek — alas, even two! — if not keep it to a strong but sterile handshake. Here to help you decode the behavioural phenomenon that is greeting someone is the following succinct guide.

Handshakes
Awkward things, used mostly in the business environment, you’ll never recover from a bad handshake. As the least intimate form of contact, they are also great for friends with whom you harbour animosity.

Fist Bumps
Never to be employed if you are over 50 — unless, of course, you are Obama. And don’t think that because someone is more ‘urban’ that a fist pump is appropriate. Let the fist come to you.

Hugs
Hugging is almost never appropriate in a business environment. Keeping in mind that the embrace necessitates full-body contact, hugs are best kept within the realm of family or friends.

Single Kiss
Your best bet after the office Christmas party, and in the case of not knowing what to do when meeting people’s girlfriends, parents, girlfriends’ parents, old flames or Zimmer frame-users.

Double Kiss
Only employ when in France or around French people (and other Europeans) lest you embarrass everyone in the vicinity. The only exception is when greeting certain people of heightened cultural status, say, visitors from New York.

Half-hug
This one’s for the guys who want to show that they are secure in their masculinity — that they’re not afraid of a close embrace with someone other than their romantic partner. Use liberally.

Hug-kiss Combo
Strictly for friends who you have not seen for at least three months. Be sure to keep your arms open as the person approaches so that they know fully what kind of embrace they’re in for.

Bear Hugs
One person in the hug must embody the physical traits of an actual bear, i.e. large physical stature and upper body strength, so as to lift the other person off the ground. Should not be embarked upon if this physical requirement is not met.

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