I have a thing for personal space. You’d be amazed at how much I can create in even the most crowded elevators. Born and raised in southern Ontario, I learned that any type of warmth or affection was reserved for those people with whom you would consider very close relationship wise.
Lets warp back more years than I care to quantify and the Toronto girl moves off to west coast Canada. The land of casual of hugging. I have always taken an element of pride of trying to appear not at all rattled – even when I am. But the hugging thing really sent me for a loop. At first when I saw arms thrust out towards me I would stand ridged like a 2 x 4 and let myself be hugged. The event was an absolute disaster for a lifetime spent cultivating personal space. But that was at first, and it wasn’t long before I became a hugger, and not just the huggee.
When some friends from Europe arrived for a Kelowna visit, I watched as they greeted everyone with cheek kisses. Not to be out done I decided to forgo the hug and greet in the same fashion. I could tell instantly that I had committed a kissing faux pas when I actually kissed the cheek of one of the men. He looked scared and mortified. I can assure you that this is not the type of reaction I was going for and as a result I looked and felt even even more scared and mortified.
A couple of years back when I first started working a lot over in Europe, I developed a light friendship with one of the women who worked at the hotel I often stayed at. It was nice to have someone to chat to about benign subjects like the weather and traffic. After a particularly long stint I went up to say my good byes to everyone. This time I reached out and hugged my friend. And that is about when she slipped into a fit of hysteria laced with panic. I don’t know if she thought I was hitting on her or not.
Note to all; In Austria and Switzerland kissing is considered casual and hugging is intimate.
So, I kiss now too. Air kisses of course. Not the real kind as I strive not to provoke any more panic attacks. But what really messes me up with the whole kissing thing is the number of kisses. In Switzerland they kiss three times, landing on the first cheek kissed. Austria is a mix of three and two. Germany two. I think. France two. I think. Belgium three. Italy is a hug or multiple kisses. To offset this I ask “will this be two or three kisses?” I am not kidding either.
But when I am really happy I have to hug. My good friends here have dubbed it “the Canadian hug.”
My obsession with personal space has been unequivocally challenged. And for the most part I handle it without a moments thought. Except when on a crowded, microscopic sized Euro elevator. For the love of all things good in this world, please do not try and greet me on one. But then, that is another blog…