Anyone who has lived in multiple countries or cultures will understand that moment of confusion when you meet a new person in a new place and… have no idea how to appropriately greet them. Do I shake their hand? Do I hug them? Do I kiss them on the cheek? Do I kiss them on both cheeks? Do I kiss them on the cheek three times?
Inevitably, there is a socially strained moment of awkward hovering when neither party is entirely sure what to do or where to go. Maybe a couple of clumsy air kisses are exchanged, hopefully with each party starting on the same side of the face to avoid any risk of accidental lip contact.
I’ve noticed that in AMERICA, the preferred form of greeting friends is hugging. The “hello hug” is not something I have observed much in other cultures – in France, it was faire la bise; in Holland, it was the three kisses; in Liberia, it was the finger snap handshake, and in England, it was simply avoidance of all physical contact with the other person (because that would be awkward, wouldn’t it?). But in the US, it’s all about hugging: hug hello, hug good-bye.
You can usually tell how close the people are by how close their hug is. Couples, of course, embrace. Close friends do a full body hug, going for the real thing. And acquaintances do the “ass out hug” – the hug that creates the least bodily contact between the two greeters (and makes them look as camp as possible).