Where I live, it is common practice for people to greet each other with a hug. The closeness or tightness of the embrace is determined by the relationship and level of feeling one person has for another. For those they love, it is a tight embrace. For others, they may offer the hugging version of an air kiss.
Having recently attended a party where I watched a lot of hugging and kissing, I was reminded that the Japanese bow to one another. They are known for their reverence for personal space. Our hugging behavior is indicative of our casual style. We often communicate our feelings through touch. The Japanese say just as much, but they don’t need to handle one another to do it. The various levels of the bow indicate the intensity of formality, respect and emotional bond.
For health reasons alone, bowing makes a lot more sense to me than casual hugging or kissing. Aren’t we all exposed to enough flu viruses without eagerly pushing our noses into someone else’s space to inhale more?
As I head to the local pharmacy to get my annual flu shot, I debate bowing to the nurse practitioner. While I have no doubt that my family and friends will think I’ve lost my mind if I suddenly substitute a bow for an embrace, I sure am tempted.