Montag, 27. August 2018

Three cheers for no-nonsense American attitude to hellos and goodbyes

We'd been sipping coffee outside a Whole Foods store, catching up with an old teaching colleague, recently removed from Munich back to the States, when he suddenly glanced at his watch and indicated it was time to leave. Then, instead of shaking hands, he simply got up and waved. At first I thought his friendly gesture was directed at someone approaching from the 'parking lot'. But no, as he proceeded to head off, I realised the hand signal was intended for us. Over the following weeks as we made our way through 'SoCal' I noticed everyone else doing it. Regardless of how near or far the distance between them.

The New Yorker 20.08.18
Before too long, I was doing likewise, greeting acquaintances old and new with an equally casual, hey-I’m-cool-with-it-man wave. Admittedly, it felt slightly odd at first. Isn’t waving meant to be the preserve of Harry, Meghan and other assorted royals/A-listers? For mere plebs in ‘old’ Europe it’s generally restricted to acknowledging a familiar face across the street or winding down the car window for one final farewell, right? Not so in The Sunshine State. What we call 'the royal wave' is known over there as the 'parade wave'.

It's difficult to imagine a more stark contrast. Both blessed and cursed with so many different ways of saying hello and goodbye, we Europeans are easily confused. Should we go for a kiss, hug, high five or hand-pump? Germans have a habit of knocking on the table whenever they get up and go. Or – and this puzzled me at first – they scrunch up their nose and blink both eyes at you. After 20 years in this country I still can't get used to either farewell gesture. Instead I often end up doing that very British thing of patting friends on the back or the arm. Cringe!

Whichever touch-feely approach we Europeans adopt, our greetings and farewells can be awkward at best and downright clumsy at worst. Particularly when we accidentally end up bumping noses, or knocking the other one's glasses off. Cringe again! 

Many fellow Europeans are quick to dismiss the U.S.A. as having losing the plot, but most Americans we chatted to seemed extremely sympathetic, some apologising profusely for the current state of affairs. Many sounded confident about the mid-term elections. We left the country feeling generally optimistic. As for no-nonsense greetings, meanwhile, three cheers for the good ole 'merican way.
Prost to cool-waving America!

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