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October 14, 2002

The Greek Hello 

is Also the Greek Goodbye

We were 20 years-old when it first happened. It was very unexpected and nothing was ever the same after that. With a simple kiss on the one cheek, and then on the other, we were introduced to what we will furthermore refer to as the "Greek Hello." We don't even remember the name of the girl involved. It was college and everyone was doing it. But after it happen we suddenly felt more Greek than at any other time in our lives.

The kiss-on-both-cheeks greeting, or "Greek Hello," isn't specifically Greek, but rather more European or Middle Eastern (definitely not American). It is certainly more involved than a handshake or even the single kiss on the cheek. It definitely separates Greek-Americans from most others around them, but is it simply a greeting? 

Your first Greek Hello signifies a coming of age of sorts in the lives of most Greek-Americans Remember back to how old you were when you first shared the Greek Hello with someone in your own peer group. We're not talking about your parents or even your cousins from Greece. We're talking about the first time it happened here in the States. Was it weird when the guy or girl who sat next to you in Greek school or GOYA or in church started greeting you that way? 

A dramatization of the Greek Hello.
A dramatization of the Greek Hello.

The Greek Hello is a more intimate greeting that a standard handshake or greeting someone with no touching whatsoever. It is for this reason, that we would argue that the Greek Hello makes things too comfortable between Greek guys and girls. It desensitizes Greek young adults to intimate contact to an almost destructive degree. Our theory:

"Never kiss a girl/guy on both cheeks that you'd one day want to kiss on the lips." 

It basically dooms any chance of anything romantic ever happening between you and the other person. The first time you Greek Hello someone you basically lump them into the group of people you are that comfortable with. It becomes such a routine occurrence that it loses all feeling. Ask yourself when was the last time you blushed when someone gave you the Greek Hello. Picture this, a Greek guy is on a date with a Greek girl and the end of the night draws near. The guy goes in for a kiss, but what kind of a kiss? Imagine he goes in for a old-school ultra-romantic, PG-rated single kiss on the cheek, and the girl gets her signals crossed and thinks that he's giving her the Greek Hello, which remember folks is also the Greek Goodbye. Mistaken about his intentions, she initiates the second part of the Greek Hello and kisses him on the other cheek. Thus, the sentiment is lost. What's worse is if the guy skips the kiss on the cheek altogether but instead goes for the kiss on the lips and the girl turns and offers up her cheek instead. Most guys would take as a sign that she didn't want him to kiss her in the first place, and that maybe she isn't too interested in him. But then if she completes the Greek Hello, the guy is left utterly confused as to her true feelings. 

If this all sounds too complicated, think about it in these simple terms. A Greek Hello can be exchanged by a guy and a girl, but also by a girl and a girl. So when a guy is giving a girl a Greek Hello, isn't he basically being treated like just another one of the girl's good girlfriends? Hmm.

There are more ways that you can get in trouble with the Greek Hello. Guys and girls watch to see who you are giving the Greek Hello to when you are out at a Greek Night or even during coffee hour at church. Nothing turns a girl off more than seeing five sets of lipstick marks on a guy's face, especially when she doesn't like 4 out of the 5 girls who were wearing the lipstick in the first place. And nothing turns a guy off more than seeing a nice girl Greek Helloing a bunch of clowns. And then there's the issue of giving bad Greek Hello. If you screw up the left to right order, or right to left order, (we're not even sure which way its supposed to go) it could lead to embarrassing results, even injuries as you knock heads with the unsuspecting victim of your ill coordinated Greek Hello. (Query: If the toilet flushes counterclockwise for Greeks in Australia, do they also Greek Hello in an opposite direction? What about in the Middle East where they read things right-to-left, do they give their version of the Greek Hello opposite to most Westerners who are used to seeing the world from left-to-right? What if a Greek-Australian Greek Helloed a Greek-Canadian living in the Middle East? Sounds like a recipe for disaster.)  Then there's the issue of what to do with your hands during a Greek Hello. Does it go on the person's upper arm, waist, or somewhere else altogether? Will the recipient get the wrong idea (or the right idea) about your true feelings for them depending on what you choose to do with that hand? And remember people, that you're giving that lucky guy or girl two shots at being overpowered by that gyro with extra onion and tzatziki you ordered for dinner every time you go in for the Greek Hello, so make sure to pack some gum or mints before you go out. 

Read past feature articles