Shoulder tap to win friends and influence people - An Arab American improvised greeting


Step 2: Greetings Across Cultures - How the Shoulder Tap Acts as a Bridge

Surprise! American's are a bit reserved when it comes to touch! A handshake can be considered a foray into the others intimate space, popping that personal bubble. While in Italy a hug might be considered appropriate amongst friends, while two men kissing cheeks is considered an awesome thing to do in the middle east.

Two people of the same gender holding hands may bring up many layers of meaning in the US, in other places it's simply considered a way to connect while walking and talking. But we should recognize that walking and holding hands is bonding and has it's place as a meaningful way of communicating throughout history and cultures. It's just not easy to pull off naturally in Nebraska.

I am an Arab American and as a culture Arabs are far touchier with our greetings and our interactions. Have you ever been in a line and had an Arab dude breath down your neck? That's because we have no real consideration of personal space (as long as you're the same gender). Being an Arab American made it much easier to incorporate the BroGrab into my life. But it was a bit odd to be in Dubai and notice Arab men eskimo kissing each other, complete with lip smacking. I asked about this, and it turns out the standard cheek kiss I grew up with as a greeting is reserved for people close to you. The nose kiss thing is for new friends. Whoa.

There are issues with touch greetings. How do you know how to respond when you are either in another culture, or in between cultures (like me)? Linn Katarina Grubbström had that very issue as a Swiss national living in Denmark. Her questionare and solution to the greeting sheds some light on the complications that arise from mixed cultural greetings.  Tip, you'll see that she compromised between the cheek kiss and the full hug with a one armed head to the side awkward hug. Awkward is not something you should be shooting for in your greetings. If you're going to go for a greeting, GO FULL ON ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE SKY.

Growing up I had to grapple with the hugs my friends wanted to give me, especially since being raised in a muslim house the concept of a girl hugging me was not acceptable. Conversely the hugging and cheek kissing of Arabs weren't acceptable for many of the guys and girls around me. Also I had my own desire to break barriers and connect with people in a novel way. The Hip Hop Hug was good, but I didn't feel the connection with the rest of the culture. What developed from these multidimensional pressures was the Shoulder Tap. It combines the hug my friends want, with the distance I felt comfortable with giving women hugs. It really opens people up to new conversations, takes the Hip Hop Hug and makes it my own all while breaking the touch barrier.

But what's the point? Why not just shake hands? Let's go through and study some touch history!