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Handshake, Hug or Kiss?

After meeting Bulgarian people for the first time, you will notice what a polite society in the way that all of them will greet you with a firm handshake, direct eye contact and a formal introduction of whom they are.

As time goes on, you discover that on meeting and parting there are alternative informal ways of greetings amongst Bulgarian family and friends - such as a kiss, a hug, or a pat on the arm along with a handshake.

Generally a firm handshake along with introducing each other works well when meeting a person for the first time and always when doing business. But for me, the confusion begins when you get to know people - as we form friendships, it seems that anything goes, especially if there has been a drink or two involved; that's when we get either a handshake, a kiss on the cheek or both.

Recently, after dinner with lovely new friends we met, I hesitated - do I shake hands or hug? We hugged and did the kiss on the cheek. It can be awkward for us as we are not so forward in friendly greetings back home.

My mum was shocked when she first visited us here a few years ago to receive kisses and hugs from all of those we had met, including the British who seemed to have caught on to this tradition!