Being a global citizen, at least considering oneself to be a global citizen can be tricky. The nuances of how you interact with people around the world change every time you meet someone.
Having grown up at a boy’s school – we knew only four ways to express ourselves. A succinct nod, a firm handshake, a pat on the back and then if the occasion really demanded it – a manly hug. (e.g. a lovely drubbing given in a college fest to Calcutta Boys, Xavier’s, La Marts et al)
Now the hug is a great gesture. It shows warmth, personal camaraderie and bonhomie. Maybe at times, it’s a complete invasion of private space but then a hug is a hug and we boys did hug, but as I said only when occasion demanded it. The hugs I received when the infamous IIT results of 2001 came out were more than any words of consolation that my crestfallen teachers could offer me.
When I went to college, suddenly there were the better half of our species all around and the seniors loved to hug. While I did try to protest saying it was unwarranted physical contact; often that would be followed by squeals of laughter and a second hug. After sometime I realized resistance was futile.
I slowly realized that hugs can be wonderful. When you are in the receiving end, it comforts you and allows you to collect yourself together. Hugs and I became friends and friends got hugs. Now the hugs were of course not for everyone. You had to be in the circle of trust! The hugs would never be allowed to wander about. That would be profligate! Bangalore had a mixed crowd – those who hugged and those who didn’t. We were still a small batch trying to learn ‘Business’ so you knew very soon who to hug and who not to hug.
When I started working, of course hugs took a back seat. In India, hugging someone might send a signal that you are about to get married and I was no longer in the wonderful wonderland of Pilani with no one to frown upon such things.
To hug or not to hug became an important question and the answer soon became a firm no! In India you never hug anyone. Period. The firm handshake and the nod came back. Hugs took a backseat. Friends started getting married. So it was of course the right thing to not go around hugging them!
But then I started working with a lot of professionals from across the world. And the hug came back. And what a return it was! And I walked in with trepidation into the new found world. And the hugs changed. The Filipino hug accompanied by the laughter, the big warm Latin American one, the cautious European ones (is it one cheek, two or three?), the surprisingly warm Russian and Turkish ones, the non-existent British ones and so many others.
And then the confusion was of a more pleasing nature – not whether hugs would be frowned upon as a workplace gesture but whether it was acceptable to hug as long as the two in question agreed to it. As they say, the hugs were back!
Most important thing however in the question of hugging is your spouse. If you are with someone who is a strong crusader of personal space and a big naysayer to hugs, then you must step carefully my friend!
Then all you are allowed is an approved Hugs list!