Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Handshakes are becoming my current worst social embarassment. A couple of months ago, at the temple Diwali festival, we met up with some acquaintances -- C & J -- who had come with their parents. The old man started a conversation with S and shook his hand. When he started talking to me, I raised my hand for a handshake. Oops. An embarassed pause followed. He smiled uncomfortably and just folded his hands in salutation. Maybe I should have just said 'Namaskaram'?!

A month later, I met a desi in his 30s at Kroger. This time, fresh from my handshaking faux pas last time, I just said 'Hi'. Oops again. The guy had already extended his hand for a handshake and my 'Hi' sounded like a snub! Ughh. Of course, in my embarassment, I hurriedly took his hand which made it seem like I was desperate to shake his hand (Thankfully, I am not single or this could've been construed as something else). The same thing happened with an American at work when I forgot to shake hands with him!

When Dr. Kalaam visited Lexington in March 2008, it was confusion galore for me! An American I had just met hugged me like I had known him for years. Another one shook my hand very enthusiastically. Young Indian guys shook hands with girls. Older Indian guys refrained from it. Middle-aged guys were in as much confusion as myself.  Dr. Kalaam himself, I noticed, didn't shake women's hands. He just folded his hands. 

Anyways, the point is, being caught in a social 'Trisanku sorgam' in the US, its difficult to keep all these various cultural permutations and combinations clear in my head. Until then, I guess I'll continue to be embarassed..


Zeppelin said...

or you could use Chandler's line - "awkward hand shake or cool hug?" or some variant of that and make light of the awkward situation. :)

VINOTH said...

:) nice,
all the very best to continue!!

Anonymous said...

Yep! Same thing here with (girl, or should I say women?)friends at work.
I undertand moments like 'Happy New Year' and 'Happy Birthday' kinda warrants a hug by the recipient, but doent come naturally. It is always a forced, akward, partial hug!

Icy Cool said...

Oh ! I have had so many of these embarrassing moments myself. I think the worst was when a American Realtor asked my husband "can I shake your wife's hands?" and I quickly extended my hand like why the heck ask my husband.