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A definitive ranking of greetings for socially awkward Irish people
Which do YOU find most mortifying?

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THE PHYSICAL GREETING is a minefield of modern life.

Gone are the days when you simply shook hands with men and gave women a chaste peck on the cheek. Instead, there’s a world of possible greetings to choose from. Each seemingly more mortifying than the last.

Here is a definitive ranking - in reverse order from least to most awkward.

12. Least awkward: The Nod

Technique: Point your face in the direction of the other person, and nod once. It can be only vaguely in their direction, and it doesn’t really matter if they see it or not. The slightest head movement will do in fact, even an accidental one.

What it says: I am probably a middle-aged man sitting in a pub that you’ve just walked into, and we’re about to have a discussion about funerals/cars/sport. Done.

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11. The Firm Shake

Technique: Extend your right hand as they extend theirs. Grip it – enough so that they feel it, but not enough that they wonder if they’ve broken a metacappal… mistercarpal… um, hand bone.

What it says: I’m a reasonable person. You’re a reasonable person. Let’s do business and/or have a pint. No funny stuff.

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10. The Soft Shake

Technique: Extend your right hand. Let it hang limply in theirs, like a damp, flesh-filled sock. Withdraw.

What it says: I am not much accustomed to human contact. This conversation is going to be difficult and you will almost certainly find yourself mentioning the “very cloudy day” for the third time, out of sheer desperation.

9. The One-Cheek Kiss

Technique: Simplest of all the kisses. Purse your lips, peck on the cheek, done. Grand.

What it says: We’re pals, and at least one of us is probably a woman. But we’re not quite good enough pals for the Full Hug (below). Definite possibility of a decent chat here.

Alternatively, we are sworn social rivals at a charity gala.

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8. The Full Hug

Technique: Spread your arms and gather the other person into them, as you would a child returning from a foreign war. Optional kiss to the cheek in the meantime if you’re feeling very affectionate.

What it says: We’re good friends, and that’s great. We can talk about anything. Right?Wait, are we friends? We should show everyone we’re friends.

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7. The Bone Crusher

Technique: Extend your right hand and take theirs. Then, grip it as if it were the very bollix of your worst enemy. Crush it and squeeze it and do not relent until you see the pain in their eyes.


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6. The Fist Bump

Technique: Extend your closed fist. Wait patiently for them to do the same. If they look puzzled, throw meaningful glances at your fist. Continue holding your fist out as long as necessary.

What it says: I am your embarrassing uncle/I am a 14-year-old ‘rapper’ from Greystones/I have no idea what I’m doing.

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5. The Shoulders-Only Hug

Technique: As with a Full Hug – but making sure that only your shoulders and arms come into contact, while the rest of your bodies remain chastely separate. Your groins, especially, should remain a minimum of two feet apart at all times.

What it says: We’re both men, and we desperately, furiously want to avoid any suggestion that we might be gay. THANK CHRIST THAT’S OVER LET’S TALK SPORT NOW.

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4. The Air Kiss

Technique: As with the kiss, but instead of actually touching them on the cheek (ew) you just ‘mwah’ the air next to them. Optional extra of actually, literally saying ‘mwah’ as you do it.

What it says: I’ve just applied a full face of makeup and a fancy outfit, and no WAY am I letting you mess up either of them. Get ta f***.

3. The Thumb Shake

Technique: Extend your hand as if for a handshake, but then – PSYCHE! Grip their thumb instead, as if you were beginning a very gentle arm-wrestle.

Be prepared for a scene of utter confusion as the person sees you’re going for it, tries to change their handshake to accommodate, gets it wrong, forgets their own name, etc.

Also, the next time you meet, they’ll remember this and go for the Thumb Shake themselves – but you’ll also have remembered and returned to a conventional handshake, meaning the exact same thing will happen in reverse. Forever.

What it says: I consider myself fairly streetwise and more than likely work in the creative industries. I am also at serious risk of extending this handshake into the Awkward One-Armed Hug (see below). Basically, I’m a danger to everyone around me.

2. The Two-Cheek Kiss

Technique: As with the One-Cheek Kiss. But just when they think it’s all over, WHAMMO! You go in for the other side. They’re left reeling.

What it says: This is only really excusable is when the person is French. Otherwise, you’re dealing with a dangerous loose cannon. Because the real risk is – why stop at two kisses? Why not three, or four, or twenty? An awkward conversation is the least of your worries here.

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1. Most awkward: The Awkward One-Armed Hug

Technique: Go in as if for a handshake. Then without warning, swing your none-handshaking arm around and grab the other person in a weird semi-hug while still shaking hands. Part awkwardly.

What it says: This is the most mortifying social greeting known to man.

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More: 6 impossible dilemmas for the socially awkward Irish>

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