And now, for a series of posts on Norwegian customs that I found surprising.

In movies, you see the Europeans do the cute greeting where they stand back from one another and give a tiny kiss on the cheek, or both cheeks, or they sort of touch one another’s shoulders and do some kind of cheek-to-cheek or almost-cheek-to-cheek motion.

Ok. People really do that here.

You might be thinking, “Duh, Melissa.” But, being from the USA where you full-body hug your family or other loved ones or sometimes even strangers you’ve only heard about and are just now meeting, that is not the custom here. The family is calling it an “American Hug” when I walk into a full-body embrace. Who can settle for a week handshake and cheek-press when there’s a bear hug just waiting in those arms? I concede that Americans also employ the “side-hug” tactic in instances of potentially awkward full-body contact — between teachers and students, between one’s self and weird ex-boyfriends, or between one’s self and smelly relatives. However, unless you’re a germophobe, the full-body hug is readily available to those you like.

See, the conflict for Norwegians seems to lie in the fact that touching faces is less intimate than the full-body hug. However, Americans I’ve spoken to feel quite the opposite, that the full-body hug is far more anonymous than actually putting your skin on another human’s skin right by both of your mouths. Additionally, Americans I’ve spoken to agree that kisses are reserved for the very dear, and are not handed out to strangers or new acquaintances.

Now, the whole Continental greeting is pretty fun, I have to admit. Everything in Norway is “cozy” (“koselig“), and a Continental greeting is no exception. My sister-in-law-to-be told me that she had a book when she was growing up, about manners in human interfacing, and so we decided it would be cute to have a children’s book about how to hug people based on what continent you’re on or something.

“How to Hug” by Melissa and Benedikte. A classic for sure.