The Embracement Of Culture: Sweaty Armpit Edition

The greeting ritual among Americans must be one of those things that emerged from so many different cultures that any common sense is completely lost. This ritual consists of two parts: there’s a high pitch in which participants declare each other’s name, while slowly commencing the second step of the ritual: a hug. Also known as the best disguised way of suffocating someone in an aroma of a day-old, sweaty shirt. Don’t get me wrong. I like some hugs. I like the ones that are comforting and bonding (fun fact: the Dutch word ‘knuffel’ means both stuffed animal and hug) and therefore, I love hugging the people I care about. The people whose sweat and body odors I’d gladly trade for the experience of a real hug.

Yeah, no, I appreciate the gesture, but I actually charge money for my hugs, so…

It’s hugging the people I don’t care about that gives me the creeps. In fact, stranger who insisted on hugging me, you’re making me uncomfortable and are thus using the power of hugs for evil. I know it’s also just me. I’m still applying Dutch hugging rules to Americans who simply don’t know any better. I have tried to impose my own ways on others by introducing three kisses on the cheeks (left, right, left), but this gave way to new problems. When you’re both in the kissing cheeks routine, you both make weird noises around someone’s ears. When it’s just me, things suddenly sound really weird and make me feel very self-conscious. I have given up on changing this, so I’m slowly sinking into the hugging madness. I’ll just have to get over my fear of moistening myself in the armpits of the stranger. I’ll sniff your culture, don’t worry.

What’s the appropriate amount of time before I can try to release myself?


32 thoughts on “The Embracement Of Culture: Sweaty Armpit Edition

  1. If you ever do figure out the appropriate amount of time before you can extricate yourself from the vice-like grip of someone’s hug, please let me know. If it’s not family or a really good friend, I am not a fan of hugging. Or the squealing of another person’s name. 😉

  2. If you’re hugging a man, you can disengage right after the masculinity-affirming back thump. If you’re hugging a woman, I’d say count one solid second if you’re hugging someone your own age, and maybe two or three seconds for a more matronly hug-ee.

  3. Usually, when I’m not a fan of whoever is doing the huggie dance, I thump them on the back (two beats like O-K) and start moving away immediately (sometimes sooner).

    You’re right to ask the question: Who the heck invented this type of greeting anyway.

    • I’d like to propose a standard procedure. The initiator spreads his arms and then the hug-ee replies by showing a number of fingers, representing the seconds of which he’d like the hug to last. You’d be making a lot of ‘peace’ signs, I see.

  4. I am American, I have lived here my entire life and I still don’t get why people insist on hugging each other all the time. I’d just rather not engage, if I do hug you, though, then you know I actually like you. In fact, I hugged a friend the other day and he later asked me how drunk I was… very.

  5. 😀 I’m not a hugger. The first time a friend- someone I knew and liked and who didn’t stink- ran up to me and grabbed me in a bear hug after not seeing for the whole summer I think I about panicked. I have since learned to use body language to great effect. I’m the one arm, minimal surface area contact type. The less of me you touch, the easier to escape. 😀 Friends get real hugs. If a random stranger attempts this asinine method of greeting, they get the one-armed deal.

  6. Garlic wasn’t meant to repell vampires: it was to stop over-friendly strangers from hugging others to death. I can recommend the Uk, where people generally keep each other at arm’s length. A handshake is the furthest they will go and that’s only once, when people first meet.

  7. Reblogged this on Here There and Everywhere and commented:
    I always check out those who comment on my blog, to make sure they aren’t someone posing as a commenter, but really selling something. When I visited this visitor, I found posts about Americans and visiting America that cracked me up. Here is one on American greetings 🙂

  8. Missouri isn’t quite The South. C’mon down. Southerners do the high voice thing, but every name has at least three extra syllables, and the phrase “I haven’t seen you in forever!” tossed in there somewhere. They have perfected the side-ways hug so as to avoid any full-frontal contact. It actually works out fairly nicely, once you catch on to it 🙂

  9. According to research, as reported by Gretchen from the Happiness Project, holding for at least six seconds is the key to releasing hugging endorphins. If you are pulling away too soon that could be why you are not enjoying the hug, smelly or not.
    more here:

    In regards to air kisses, I don’t think Americans are ready for the three or even two cheek smooch. They are a wily bunch and move quickly, chances are you will end up with Aunt Lucy’s puckered lips right in front of yours and before you realize what happened you will be dubbed that guy who assaulted poor Aunt Lucy at her niece’s wedding.

    • Six seconds? These people must have had a lab shower or very pretty girls to have the subjects try on. And again, I don’t want to appear cynical and I love me a good squeezy hug, but with new people, six seconds can send a weird message. Family members will get the full six seconds, no worries. The ‘kissing Aunt Lucy’ risk is one that hovers over air kisses, I’ll give you that. One of the really important things to remember before moving in, is to not close your eyes. It often looks as if you’re doing the grocery aisle shuffle (you know, where you’re both moving out of the way and just blocking each other again), but it works out well most of the times…

  10. Well in my culture we don’t hug that much. We only hug people who are very dear to us. I think the maximum amount of time is a second or two. The thump in the back I’ve been reading in the comments is also a good idea. You have to thump the back to signal that you need some air or something. LOL, BTW I used the zombie photo above on my own article, I hope that’s okay! Here’s the link if you want to see it:

      • They say hugging is great for the body though (all those hormones things and stuff) LOL. Thanks, I like using WordPress photos because it helps me in and promote new blogs like yours 🙂

  11. Instead of shaking my hand at church, the fellow next to me opted to bow toward me. We are conditioned to give the Sign of Peace – a perfunctory handshake, a brief jerk of the hand downwards. Getting a different gesture was unsettling. It was flu season, granted, but I took it personally. “I’m not touch-worthy! Unclean, unclean! Where is my little handbell?”

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