While the hug is a widespread phenomenon across America, Europeans haven’t totally embraced this type of embrace. To say hello or goodbye to a friend, kissing (“la bise”) is in order. This is generally the case with girl/girl and boy/girl friendships. In Switzerland, friends will greet each other with three alternating kisses on the cheek (the people I know tend to go R-L-R).
I have to admit, it’s funny to watch a “hello” moment between a Swiss friend and French friend; in France, only two kisses are given. That awkward moment after the second kiss when you don’t know if you are doing a third one…
If two boys are exchanging greetings, they will typically go for a handshake instead. Makes everything easier.
Saying hello is a very important part of the culture in Switzerland. Let’s say you go to a party, and you arrive on time (it wouldn’t be any other way; this is Switzerland we’re talking about). There will inevitably be others in the room when you get there. Your job, before you can head for the snack table or grab a glass, is to say hello to everyone present. Individually. You will make the rounds, giving kisses (or handshakes) and exchanging accompanying pleasantries. Only then you can start to party. And guess what? When you want to leave, it’s the same process. Plan accordingly because this does take time! A simple “au revoir” to the entire group isn’t gonna cut it.
So, there’s the all-important in-person greeting. There is also online salutatory etiquette. For example, “bisous” (kisses) is an appropriate ending to an SMS or an informal email. In fact, when I didn’t include it once, one of my Swiss friends thought I was mad at her!
Greetings play a big part of everyday life. When you passing by anyone in a Swiss village or enter a small store, say hello. Remember back to opening song in Beauty and a Beast, where everyone is saying “Bonjour” to each other? That really happens here! Don’t worry, you don’t have to kiss anyone don’t know, but acknowledging their presence with a hello is generally expected.
So, here’s me saying “tchao” to you until Monday!