Sarah J. Carlson

Contemporary Young Adult Author

On being the token Yank: “We’ll turn you European yet!” Cultural differences in saying good bye


Image(The awkward bro hug two tap on the back I’d be okay with. Kissing cheeks? Not so much)

Yesterday I was at a meeting with some of my fellow Singapore Writer’s Group (which is an amazing group of writers, seriously! But 505 members on Meet-Up is not exactly functional). Being Singapore, we are a fairly culturally diverse group. After serious discussions about our future as a group, we parted ways.

I actually was NOT the token Yank at the time. There was one other. Note this. It’s an important fact.

So the three English women and one French women started hugging and kissing each others’ cheeks. Then it was my turn. This is kind of what I wanted to do:


Obviously I went along with it but did not actually kiss. Also I didn’t start crying, don’t worry. I’ve been through this plenty of other times, but still it makes me feel a bit awkward, especially since I don’t know them super well.

“We’ll turn you into a European yet!” one of my writing friends said. We all had a bit of a laugh.

Me and the other American looked at each other and laughed. We just waved.

We definitely don’t do the hug and kiss each cheek thing in Wisconsin. I was thinking about it, and my friends and I back home at most would do an awkward side hug farewell but that’s about it. My English and Scottish friends here, apart from those at the SWG, don’t do that either.

Image(I’d put Wisconsin in this category as well haha)

Will I turn European before I leave Singapore? Only time will tell. I’ve been told I’m practically British so I guess I’m getting closer 😛

Have you encountered cultural differences in greetings that made you feel uncomfortable? What is your culture’s method of saying good bye? (Americans, we DO have our own culture, which I didn’t really realize until I left haha)

15 thoughts on “On being the token Yank: “We’ll turn you European yet!” Cultural differences in saying good bye

  1. Ben Wonders

    In Michigan we have a very similar greeting process. First of all, with the exception of a handshake, hugging or kissing is almost completely off-limits if you don’t already know the person. If you do know the person but aren’t extremely close we do the hug illustrated above with one small variation, we do a quick pat on their back with our hands. Once the pats are done you are supposed to let go; timing is crucial in this operation and bad timing means you are stand-offish or overly amorous.


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      YES!!!! this is exactly right! So I didn’t want to generalize this across the US because there can be a lot of regional cultural variations, but I think Midwest definitely hugging’s not really a thing and kissing, not at all a thing. Also, the awkward side hug. Yes and I think it’s worse to be overly amorous than standoffish haha. Oh Midwest, I miss you!


  2. Jennifer Austin - Author

    The funny thing is, my cultural issues are kind of with other Americans! 🙂 In my family, we don’t hug. We sure as hell don’t kiss, but my husband’s family hugs each other every time they see each other. They also hug goodbye. Every time! That’s his mom, 4 siblings, their spouses, and three kids each I have to hug when I arrive and hug when I leave. And now the older grandkids are getting married and there’s two great-grandkids. His family is great, and I love each and every one of them, but I conveniently have to go to the bathroom when the hug-fest gets going!


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Haha my family’s the same way. We don’t really hug and when we do it feels a bit awkward lol. So then having strangers doing it, it’s like um… I don’t know you! Stranger danger. I would probably do the same as you at those huge family gatherings haha. Sneakily run away. 😛


  3. teannadorsey

    My family tried to start a tradition of hugging but it never took and I feel so awkward with it, although my extended family does the hug goodbye thing at every family gathering. Some even try a kiss on the cheek. (even more awkward)


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Me, too! We kind of hug now, mostly because our significant others were like why don’t you guys hug? But it is like the awkward side hug. Yeah a kiss on the cheek, that’d be weird. But really I suppose it’s kind of weird when I think about it seeing as we’re family and all haha. If you don’t mind me asking, what area of the country are you from? I’m curious if there are regional differences in this.


  4. jlheuer

    My family were never huggers and even today when I hug my Mom ( she’s 88 and likes a little comforting at times) it is a bit awkward. But strangely we have a tight group of friends, two other couples, who we see often ( we have a gourmet group and we just traveled to Paris together) and we hug when we come to each other’s house for dinner and hug when we say goodbye. No weirdness, no discomfort…also no kissing.


  5. suzanne

    In the States I rarely used physical contact in a greeting or departure. In the Dominican Republic women kiss once on the right cheek to say hello and men (or men and women) shake hands or grasp arms (kind of a weird one). Physical contact is HUGE here in the Caribbean/Latin America and just greeting each other and saying goodbye in general. When someone walks into a room more often than not they either give a general greeting or go around and greet everyone individually. This is even emphasized in our preschool! You say good morning when you arrive. After two years I’ve gotten pretty used to it and when I am visiting the States sometimes I have to stop myself from greeting everyone in the gas station.


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Yes! I have a friend from Argentina and I know she sometimes tones down her hellos and goodbyes :). It’s amazing how many little cultural differences there are. Thanks for stopping by 🙂


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