by GringoSam

They say that first impressions are all-important. If so, the etiquette of greetings could be crucial in making that early bond with a stranger. Get it right and you could have yourself a friend for life, get it wrong and expect to be thrown out with the social refuse.

The handshake is undoubtedly the most recognised gesture of goodwill in the Western world. Most historians believe that it first came about when our ancestors displayed open palms to strangers, signifying that they were holding no weapons. Though, if arms-bearing was commonplace back then, one has to wonder why our greeting never evolved into one party getting down on their knees with their hands on heads.

Above: People were greeted cautiously a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

But even this symbolic shake is not as simple as it would seem – the French only consider the handshake to be appropriate in a business environment, in Russia it’s rude to shake hands with your gloves on, and in Arab cultures limp handshakes are the norm. Then in Scotland, of course, the handshake is simply a way of using another man’s right hand as a fleshy stress ball – they are so macho that, if your handshake fails to bring a tear to the eye of your ‘opponent’, you will be automatically discounted as ‘a bonnie wee lass’.

And then of course we throw in the kisses, the hugs, the awkward waves and everything else that goes with saying “hello”. Today’s level of social interaction between different cultures has never previously been seen in human history, and at some stage we’re all left in limbo when introduced to a stranger, particularly of the opposite sex:

‘Is it a faux pas to shake a woman’s hand? Probably, and anyway she’ll think I’m cold. Perhaps I could turn on some continental charm with a couple of kisses? Then again, not sure how many to give, and I wouldn’t want to come across as camp. I could even casually nod upwards, à la Jay-Z, but I’m white and almost definitely not cool enough to pull it off convincingly. Oh well…guess I’ll just play it safe with a smile and a mini-wave.’

There’s a lot to be said for countries that have unwritten rules telling what you must and must not do when greeting a person. A handshake between two men and a single kiss on a woman’s right cheek seems sensible to me. But it’s something that is obviously a cause of anxiety worldwide – in fact, if you type ‘How do I greet’ into Google, the search engine will give you the following popular suggestions:

‘How do I greet a Muslim’

‘How do I greet a girl’

‘How do I greet my date’

‘How do I greet thee’

OK, so I’m not sure where that last one came from, but you get the point. First impressions are undoubtedly important, and we all fear that the impression we give may be one of a socially-aloof, standoffish kind of person. For many of us I suppose this may well be true but, still, let’s at least delay the truth a little longer.

‘Why the hell did I wave at thee from half-a-metre away?! Feel like a cretin. Note to self: never again consult Google for social guidance.’


Amazon Rainforest: A Photo Essay
by gringosam

"The Amazon? But only David Attenborough gets to go there." This was my friend's disbelieving reaction to the suggestion of a long-weekend in this infamous haven of wildlife. A rainforest which spans an entire continent, the Amazon greets visitors with an air of the vast unknown. Sure we've all seen stunning BBC HD documentaries but that sense of raw, powerful nature just doesn't transmit through any television screen. Having said that, it was slightly unnerving when my first alligator sighting wasn't limited to the familiar boundaries of a 42" Sony LCD.

Ecuador is home to 2% of the entire jungle but, with primary rainforest accessible only by river, the biodiversity is unparalleled here. GringoDisclaimer: Any gringo with a fear of insects is best advised to let the soothing tones of Mr. Attenborough guide you through what is a frightening yet beautiful natural habitat!

Photography: GringoSam


Businessman 35
by gringorem

wait up for Friday
it buys you a drink
it reminds you
where you are
crumpled notes
lift from wallet creases
into your hand
your fun is empty [give up today

wash out tomorrow]

see a pretty face
watch it smile / frown
young bucks on the dance floor
you old stag

your suit
parts the crowd
against loud
music hurts your head
it reminds you
where you are

years have slid
by without you knowing
like beads of sweat
on your receding hair line


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