Adopting foreign customs is all very well, says Alan Cochrane, but the vogue for kissing and handshaking on every meeting is becoming insufferable
Alan Cochrane is tired of tactile greetings when a simple 'hello' will do
‘Surely it’s best to keep your hands and lips to yourselves – except in appropriate circumstances’
With the holiday season largely over now, more than a few of us are basking in the plaudits that Scotland and the Scots have received from the legions of tourists who’ve graced these shores in recent months.
Most pleasing, at least as far as this observer is concerned, is that the image of the dour, moneygrubbing Jock has, to all intents and purposes, gone. We’ve nowadays gained a deserved reputation for friendliness and, well, of being nice to people.
Having said that, I wonder if we’re taking things a bit too far in that direction? Have we become a wee bit too, you know, touchy-feely?
The issue became one of the talking points of our summer holiday in France when some friends of one of my teenage daughters’ pitched up for a few days. And of particular concern for them was this business of kissing – the friendly sort, you understand.
What are the circumstances when a peck on the cheek, or several for that matter, should be permitted, they wondered? The so-called ‘mwah, mwah’ tendency has grown like Topsy in recent years – a ghastly import, to my mind, from southern climes. It’s perfectly all right, in its place, and that place is almost exclusively Europe. My teenage guests appeared mystified by the protocol concerning the custom. At least one of their number had pronounced views on this – saying that she always proffers a hand to be shaken rather than a cheek to be pecked.
There appear to be many different varieties of all this pecking. In the Ardeche, where we holiday, three is de-rigeur – left, right, left again.
But just as Keith Waterhouse wrote that the permissive society never did manage to reach his hometown of Leeds, so I’m reasonably confident that all this cheek-pecking hasn’t really caught on in Dundee.
I suppose it all depends upon the company you keep. I know of one chap who, when new ladies join his extended family, warns them not to be offended if he doesn’t co-operate when they expect a kiss on the cheek. He loathes all this kissing stuff.
But it’s not just kissing; there really is far too much touching going on at present, is there not? For instance, what’s wrong with the age old and sensible Scots tradition that shaking hands should be reserved for New Year and funerals?
Men, and it’s usually men, who may have been in each other’s company as recently as a day or two ago appear incapable of striking up a conversation again without shaking hands. It really is the strangest behaviour and again it’s one we’ve absorbed from foreign parts.
I try very hard to maintain this excellent custom but it really is extremely difficult, given that almost everyone takes the most extreme offence if their outstretched hand is snubbed.
How should we proceed? Surely it’s best to keep your hands and your lips to yourselves – except in, you know, the appropriate circumstances.
Much of this touching stuff has reached us from Europe, so I suppose we could be grateful if leaving the EU puts a stop to it, or at least slows it down a bit.
I for one can’t think of any other Brexit benefit. Can you?