I’m not complaining. I’m just making an observation.
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of work in Ottawa. Quebec/French culture is prevalent there in business.
Almost every time I’ve been there, I am greeted or parted by colleagues, some I know, some I don’t, with a two cheek kiss.
That isn’t to say that I never experience this sort thing in Toronto. It does happen from time-to-time, but mostly with good colleagues I’ve known for a long time and who are either European or from Quebec. With the rest all I get or give is either the plain old-handshake or the two-hands together nod.
Personally, I think the two-cheek kiss is fun. It’s social. It’s old-fashioned. It breaks the ice. I feel differently about the person in a positive way. And wow, I’m very surprised that this protocol continues in modern business because there seems to be a lot of uptight people out there about body contact at work.
There’s the germs, for one thing.
There’s the perceived sexism, for another.
Is this a practice that needs to end?
Does the HR lady need to get involved?
Talk amongst yourselves.
What intrigues me further is how would individual from collectivist/eastern culture react to this, where there are stringent boundaries for personal space?
I remember my first year at the university in California. One of my batch mates stepped forward to greet me with a hug and I automatically took a step back. This, however, changed as I went through the process of acculturation.
The multicultural environment we are in, reaction ceremonial kiss would be interesting topic of discussion from HR perspective.
Undoubtedly, the kiss greeting is purely a cultural thing. For us Franco-Canadians, it is a none issue; we know when it is appropriate to great with a handshake, and when to kiss. But we may make a mistake when we great someone from another culture, whether it French, British or Russian. The customs on kissing vary greatly from country to country, and even from region to region within a country. I think it is best to follow the timeless advice: When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Therefore, when in Ottawa, do as they do there. When in Toronto, give the good old handshake. I don’t think there is need to official policy on the matter (and kissing does not need to be a sexist thing, as in many cultures, men greet each other by kissing).
As for the germs, a recent study from a large American university (sorry, I don’t remember which) showed that the air kiss method (which is the only acceptable way to kiss-greet, where cheeks touch, not lips to cheek) is a much cleaner method of greeting; hands touch all sorts of dirty surfaces, and shaking hands passes germs very readily.