Starting with the first days in January, how do you greet each other again after the holiday season and wish one another a happy new year? Probably not bowing if you live in Europe, only when showing utmost respect on special occasions based on religious or formal etiquette codes.
But now the tricky part: kiss or shake hands? Generally speaking, in northern Europe people are not physical communicators. They keep a clear distance between each other when speaking to one another, with very little physical contact. In comparison: two French people talking apparently touch each other about 110 times in one hour, while two English people hardly do it at all! More about that admirable French touching later…
So, in most cases, people in the north suffice with a (firm) handshake when you meet them in the first days of January. If you are in Holland, only relatives, friends and close colleagues will venture going for the kiss. How many times? Traditionally three times, starting the ritual on the left side. And beware… unlike in many other cultures, only women with women and women with men exchange kisses (so not men together).
People in other cultures have quite different habits in greetings at work, ranging from hardly any contact at all (much of Asia) to big abrazos in Latin America.
Take the Belgians: they usually seal the encounter with just one kiss, which seems rather cold and distant for the physical French who produce between one to five kisses depending on the region.
Back to the Dutch: in general they face this greeting dilemma on two occasions: in early January and at birthdays throughout the year when congratulating the birthday boy or girl. Otherwise, it is a handshake, but only on formal occasions; so on a daily basis, no handshake, only a verbal greeting, unlike the French again, those notorious all-around hand shakers and comprehensive kissers.
- So before you go abroad, check the book mentioned above or see “A Brief History of Kissing Across Cultures”:
- This will prevent you from making a cultural faux-pas like this or that.
- For the book mentioned above, see details here.
- See this map for an overview of how many time you kiss in France.