Mediterranean sorrow as virus upends greeting rituals

Published May 29, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Agence France-Presse

To greet friends and acquaintances by kissing, hugging and shaking hands is considered part of the essence of Mediterranean identity.

“ People from the south need contact," a Marseille walking tour guide says (AFP / CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / MANILA BULLETIN)
“People from the south need contact,” a Marseille walking tour guide says (AFP / CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / MANILA BULLETIN)

But the coronavirus pandemic has put an abrupt end to such rituals with no indication of when it will be safe to resume them.

Fear of spreading the virus has upended traditions as close physical contact suddenly became dangerous, even life-threatening.

Fisherman Daniel Reggio used to hail friends and colleagues with the traditional “bise” or cheek-kissing when he bumped into them in the southern French port city of Marseille.

Since the spread of COVID-19, he has resorted to elbow-bumping.

“We can’t say we don’t miss it, but going without isn’t going to end friendship or complicity,” said Reggio, as he sold sea bream in Marseille’s historic Old Port area.

Fist bumps have elbowed out handshakes as a way to greet someone during the coronavirus epidemic
Pensioner Yvon Tapias organises walking tours in Marseille. He now greets people with the “Wuhan shake”, a foot greeting that harks back to the Chinese city where the novel coronavirus first appeared.

“We touch each other with our soles,” he said, pointing to the inside of his foot.

“People from the south need contact,” Tapias said.

In Tunisia, actor Mohamed Werdeni said the physical greetings were part of regional traditions.

“We like to kiss each other two, three, four times, depending on the region. It’s very weird to say hello like this now.”