Since I arrived thirty years ago, I’ve lived all over the UK. I love the local dialects and regional accents from the various party of our wonderful country. I have many English and Scottish friends, so I’ve encountered all sorts of interesting forms of the language.
The world is certainly a small place, even though physically it seems vast. With transport and technology, people from across the globe can become your neighbours, quite literally.
This is especially true if you happen to live in a university town like Cambridge. Here you can find all kinds of people from various parts of the globe. And with this movement comes not just the food and languages, but also a vast array of different expectations and etiquettes.
As you get to know people better that etiquette intensifies. For example, with my British friends a peck on a cheek is a good way to say you’re pleased to see them; with my Italian and French friends it is kiss on each cheek.
I have some Polish friends too, and their etiquette is different still. I found this out when I met a Polish friend after a long time. She embraced me and gave me two pecks on the cheeks. When I moved away from the exchange, she pulled me back again for a third.
“In Poland, it is three”, she explained.
This made me smile. I wondered if there is a reason for such greetings; the Polish give three kisses … is it superstition?
In Indian culture, an even number is considered ungracious when dealing with friends or relatives. For example, at weddings and for birthdays, a small amount of money is given as present, and it is always 5, 11, 21 or 51 and so on. After all, it is said that you shouldn’t attempt to even out with your close ones.
Could three kisses be for practical reasons? It is very cold in Poland, so perhaps the exchange of body heat that comes with a hug and three kisses is welcomed. Or maybe under the Nazi occupation or Communist rule, this was a good way to trade information without raising suspicion?
I am, of course, speculating. But to me it is a very interesting subject to mull over, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some truth behind my thinking.
I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to meet such wonderful people, and to learn from them. I feel touched by the warmth of my friends and customers alike, and I try to respond in turn by looking after them as much as possible.
And to me the human touch is first and foremost in my mind when designing and marketing my products, as without it, the whole process would seem a little futile.