Handshake, hug, or friendly nod?
December 22, 2010 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Guy meets girl for the first time in real life. Handshake, hug, or friendly nod?

My friends set me up on a date. Because we've been too busy with school to get together, we've shared photos and talked online quite a bit. We're not strangers, but we're maybe not friends yet either. The conversation has been friendly and warm. What's the best way to greet her in real life?
posted by Avenger50 to Human Relations (50 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
depends on a lot of things, including ethnicity and location. Amongst my foreign friends, kisses on the cheeks would be the norm, but would be weird with American girls where a hug may seem wakward. I'd make a gametime decision based upon how she looks when she approaches. Gauge her nervousness and capitalize ;)
posted by Hurst at 2:07 PM on December 22, 2010

I think you won't really know until you meet her in person and can gauge her reaction to you, or can see her personality type reveal itself in the flesh. Then just let your instincts kick in. For example, if she seems really reserved and wary, not necessarily of you per se but that is just her personality, then maybe a friendly nod will do. If she seems outgoing, extroverted, and excited to see you, maybe a hug. It is a situation that is relative to the context...just do what seems appropriate at the time.
posted by mrdmsy at 2:08 PM on December 22, 2010

I say, let the girl make the first move, greeting-wise. Different people are comfortable with different things. As a guy, i certainly wouldn't initiate a hug with a girl I just met, but I wouldn't mind if she did.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:08 PM on December 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: depends on a lot of things, including ethnicity and location.

Good point. This is the American Midwest.
posted by Avenger50 at 2:08 PM on December 22, 2010

If you're a hugger, then hug her. Everyone can use affection! I would say it's more important to be genuine than to observe protocol.
posted by goblinbox at 2:11 PM on December 22, 2010

Friendly nod is probably what you'll end up with, just because of how the introduction will go -- e.g. if you pick her up, there will be a door opening between you. If you meet in public, someone will get there first and see the other coming from a distance.

But if it were me...

Fist bump.

Seriously, a playful fist bump. It's friendly yet manly, it's comedically sarcastic, it's not a formal handshake, it's an acknowledgement of friendship and foreknowledge, it defuses tension, it'll make her smile.

Trust me. It'll work.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:16 PM on December 22, 2010 [5 favorites]

I vote for the hug, too. Not a big bear hug, but a quick affectionate embrace. This is a date, not an interview so nix the handshake. And the head nod is straight out, never OK in a dating situation of any kind. ever.

But I agree with goblinbox: be genuine or the meeting will be awkward no matter what you do.
posted by Ranindaripley at 2:17 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I won't disagree with the earlier advice to gauge her demeanor when you meet her, but if you take this route make sure you can pull off the last-minute decision naturally and with confidence. An awkward hug or tentative handshake could make a not so great first impression.

It sounds like you have a good thing going with your previous online conversations, so just remember that she is interested enough to go out with you :) and just be genuine and natural.
posted by seesom at 2:21 PM on December 22, 2010

Do not hug willy-nilly! I am very reserved when first meeting people and would get really annoyed if someone hugged me right off the bat. But, then, I barely hug ANYONE. I really kind of hate it.

Fist bump or handshake. Not a limp-wristed "handshake" but a real handshake. Or friendly nod.

I am a midwestern girl with an expansive sense of personal space. Uninvited encroachments into my personal space are met with hostility so take my advice with a grain of salt. Good luck!
posted by rachums at 2:21 PM on December 22, 2010

Female, 30s, Southern, and I'd want a handshake in the situation you describe. HMMV. I'm REALLY not a hugger and I'd hate to be hugged right away.

Crazy thought - if you're going to be talking to her again before you see one another, you might have a conversation about hugging? Like an abstract one, "My family are big huggers, especially at Christmas - what are yours like?"

If you MUST hug, I vote for a sideways one-armed hug, so there's not so much full-frontal body contact.
posted by 100watts at 2:24 PM on December 22, 2010

I recently met a girl in real life I'd been 'friends' with online for four years or so. I hugged her because that's what I do to girls I am friends with.

I suggest you do whatever it is you are comfortable with and normally do with people on a date. To me, that would be hugging - a fist bump seems insincere and kind of smug (no offense to any of the people who've suggested it), a handshake seems odd and formal, and a nod seems cold and impartial. If you hug her and she doesn't like it, maybe she's not as comfortable touching people as you are, but at least you'll know that straight off.
posted by Pecinpah at 2:32 PM on December 22, 2010

posted by Sreiny at 2:41 PM on December 22, 2010

Hold your hand out in a friendly fashion but not in that stiff-armed I MUST SHAKE YOUR HAND NOW way. If she wants a hug she'll walk into you and hug you If she just wants to shake, then she can take your hand.

I mean, if it was me, and if I'd chatted and emailed and I knew this was a date thing, I'd open my arms wide and welcome her in for a hug, but to be really honest here: don't be afraid to make a mistake with this. Just be genuinely friendly and it will all be over in a moment with smiles all around.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:53 PM on December 22, 2010

Bro hug?

Personally, I'd prefer a hug to a handshake -- handshakes always make me feel like my dad! -- but I'd suggest going for the handshake, but with a slightly extended other arm, so it can go hug-wise if she feels that way. If you do hug, make it light and quick.

Or if you want to be creepy, take her hand and kiss her knuckles!
posted by whitneyarner at 2:55 PM on December 22, 2010

Follow her lead, but there should be nothing awkward or weird about a handshake. Perhaps a light touch on the shoulder to go with it if you have or anticipate having some, shall we say, boy-girl interpersonal chemistry.

And there's nothing wrong with no physical contact, nodding, etc. The "old school" etiquette I was taught circa '70s and '80s was that men shake hands, women initiate handshakes if wanted. That's a bit old school and arguably sexist, I suppose, but at least it leaves options open - some people just don't want physical contact on first meeting.

I wouldn't go in for the clinch, unless she initiates it.

Not exactly to your question, but be prepared for the first encounter to feel a little strange at first. I don't know if you've literally talked, as on the phone or skype, or by "talked" you mean chatted or e-mailed, but sometimes people's communication styles are different in real life. I, for one, write much better than I talk. Usually you get over it quickly as you get used to each other's personal style.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:00 PM on December 22, 2010

Side hugs are the worst thing in the world.
posted by roll truck roll at 3:05 PM on December 22, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'm not a hugger, but my first thought was a big smile and quick hug. I think a handshake would be a little weird, unless you are at least like early 30s. I love the fist bump idea though. You'll figure it out based on what you pick up on when you see her.
posted by mrs. taters at 3:08 PM on December 22, 2010

When you get to just outside of handshake/hug range, raise your right hand up to just about shoulder-level and do a small, back-and-forth wave. From this position, you can watch what the other person is doing and transition smoothly to meet them. It is also the case, however, that if you wave, it can discourage the other person from what they were going to do and cause them to just wave back.
posted by mhum at 3:14 PM on December 22, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers. The date's tonight(!) and I go from one decision to the next with these comments. But they're all very helpful.
posted by Avenger50 at 3:15 PM on December 22, 2010

I recently learned about the flirty handshake: http://www.match.com/magazine/article.aspx?trackingid=516307&bannerid=566769&lid=0&articleid=5942

The one explained above might be a little too intense for a greeting, but the gist is: take her hand with both hands, light touch but not limp either, linger ever-so-briefly on the let-go, sincere, kind eye contact with smile, like you just saw a neat puppy on Cute Overload.

But yeah, there is no cure-all. Every woman is different, which means it's not so important to start flirty as it is to sustain flirty confidence at a level that they find comfortable and up the ante at a rate that's not too much stronger than the reciprocation you sense.
posted by Skwirl at 3:16 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hug, definitely. It's a great icebreaker for introducing physical contact and shows confidence and courage. If someone you meet for the first time gets all uppity about being hugged then I would take that as a bad sign. Just go in with confidence, don't hesitate and don't overdo it.
posted by talkingmuffin at 3:20 PM on December 22, 2010

I was trying to think of a way to describe the Flirty Handshake that Skwirl just mentioned. Yes! Flirty handshake!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:27 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

She isn't a stranger. You've spoken with her. I say hug all the way.

Handshakes are for when you are introducing yourself to some random girl in the bar (and in that case I wait for the woman to initiate)
posted by zephyr_words at 3:30 PM on December 22, 2010

I'm not a hug person, but in the past, I've really appreciated it when "internet friends" who I already know very well go for the hug opener. It feels kind of... validating, I guess? And it takes my own uncertainty over how to act from the equation. Obviously everyone's different, but adding my anecdata to the pile.
posted by deludingmyself at 3:34 PM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

A couple of these answers have suggested that you do whatever you feel most comfortable with. Please, no. You will make a much better initial impression if you do your best to do whatever you think she will be most comfortable with. Try to read her body language; if she seems at all reserved, keep the greeting warm but low-key. If a guy greeted me with a handshake or nod and a smile, I would be touched (so to speak) by the respect and thoughtfulness implicit in that gesture. Excessive grabbiness could be seriously offputting, and could easily come across as presumptuous, clueless, and selfish. But the fact that you're asking this question here suggests that you probably won't have those problems.
posted by Corvid at 3:36 PM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Let her lead.

I love hugs! But I do not like people touching me that I have not invited to touch me. This includes people I don't know well, and feel massively uncomfortable if they rest a hand on my shoulder, or hug me, or touch my head or hair (as a petite woman, you'd be surprised by how many acquaintances or virtual strangers think that patting me on the head or stroking my hair is ok). Touching me without my consent feels to me like an invasion of my personal privacy. I realize that seems over the top, but you have to realize that for every person who hugs a stranger, there is at least one other person who hates it when they are hugged by a stranger.

See what she does when she approaches. If she sticks her hand out, give her a warm, friendly handshake (it can be a very warm and friendly encounter!). If she holds out her arms and squeals, "Avenger50!", then give her a hug.

And whatever you do, don't stress it!
posted by arnicae at 3:57 PM on December 22, 2010

I am uptight with people I don't know well, but love hugs from my closest friends. I vote for a handshake with a warm left hand to the shoulder (and maybe a light squeeze) move - to me it's friendly without crossing the line if she's less open with her personal space.
posted by Mala at 4:09 PM on December 22, 2010

Not so sure about the hugging - then you have to go through that awkward "no, I'm really not trying to brush up against your boobs" leaning-in-with-the-shoulders kind of hug that just doesn't feel warm.

Another upvote for the flirty handshake as your default greeting, unless she tries for something else. It's good to get that initial physical contact out of the way or else it can become a "thing" later.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:17 PM on December 22, 2010

Seconding the flirty handshake and expressing extreme horror at the idea of starting the evening with a fist-bump.
posted by hermitosis at 4:24 PM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

You're overthinking this. The plans you have will go out the window immediately after meeting her, when you will read her social cues and go with them. She'll seem reserved or she won't. If she is, handshake. If she's not, hug. But you'll know this yourself anyway.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 4:32 PM on December 22, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'd probably treat it like any other "meeting in person for the first time" situation. "Hi, I'm Sara C!" and a handshake. And I'm by no means a "reserved" person - I've been in your position before and we were making out within the hour.
posted by Sara C. at 4:41 PM on December 22, 2010

Hug! Or handshake.

Just not the fist bump, please.
posted by emd3737 at 5:17 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I vote for hug if she seems open to it. Alternatively, touch her on the upper arm as you greet her. (Approach her with arms open half way between going to touch her arm and going in for a bear hug, and see how she reacts and go with whichever option seems best!)

I'd find a handshake completely inappropriate - I shake hands with people I meet at work, and it would set the wrong tone for a date.
posted by finding.perdita at 5:33 PM on December 22, 2010

No fist bump please... that feels like a "hey buddy!" thing to me, and if I'm meeting you for a date I am not looking to be your buddy.

The hubs and I met in person after a few weeks of emails and phone calls, and we went with a hug. It seemed pretty natural and led to good things all around. I'm not sure I'd have felt as comfortable, as quickly, had he offered a handshake.

The flirty handshake sounds like a pretty good compromise though, if her body language doesn't seem welcoming to a hug.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:43 PM on December 22, 2010

The best date I ever went on started out with a smile and strong affirmative handshake. YMMV of course.
posted by french films about trains at 8:13 PM on December 22, 2010

Nthing the Follow Her Lead maneuver
posted by asuprenant at 9:18 PM on December 22, 2010

Unless you do something wildly appropriate, like grab her breast and go "HONK HONK", she's probably not even going to remember/care how you greeted her. Relax!
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 10:56 PM on December 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

I vote for a handshake with a warm left hand to the shoulder (and maybe a light squeeze) move - to me it's friendly without crossing the line if she's less open with her personal space.

This. I love hugs too, but only from people I have met before and are good friends with. If I have not met you in person before, I would *not* want someone assuming that we were best buds and hence invading my personal space, thanks.

You can't go too wrong with a handshake, methinks.
posted by moiraine at 11:52 PM on December 22, 2010

I would vote very strongly against the hug. This seems far too familiar and intimate for someone you're meeting for the first time. Then again, I'm British. All I know is that if a British person was hugged by someone they'd only just met, the atmosphere would instantly freeze harder than an iceberg in a deep freeze.

A handshake seems okay, but rather formal. I think I'd very much base things on how she reacts to you at first. Certainly give her a big smile and a cheery greeting but I honestly think it's only polite to steer clear of physical contact until you know each other at least a bit. It doesn't do to presume upon someone's personal space until you know it's welcome.
posted by Decani at 4:16 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Another anti-hug here. Unless you're my husband, my daughter or parent/grandparent, no hugs from me. Hugging me on the first meeting would be weird.

My experience wasn't a date, but the first time I physically met my best friend after years online was sharing a hotel room, asking her to be a bridesmaid and I still didn't hug right off the bat. Nowadays I do occasionally hug, but mostly bro-hug and fistbump.

In actual advice I'd follow her lead or start with a hand shake or squeeze. Both can transmute to a hug easily, without the 'up in my face'-ness of a hug.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:31 AM on December 23, 2010

I gotta say: the Flirty Handshake sounds like it’s a hair's breadth away from the Funeral Home Director Handshake. Any two-handed handshake with eye contact that I've ever been subject to has been in the context of "sincere condolences," not "heyyyyy, how you doin'?"

I am a guy, though.
posted by Shepherd at 8:53 AM on December 23, 2010

We need an update.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:47 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thirty-something Oregon-born-and-raised woman who's spent years in France here. So, for frame of reference, in France I kiss ("bise") my co-workers on the cheeks Every. Single. Day. (Don't worry, I'm not going to recommend that for someone in the US Midwest. Just giving an idea of the extent of my personal range of comfort.)

My vote is for smile warmly, say "hey [her name]!", and shake her hand as you would a genuine friend's. Even if you don't necessarily shake your friends' hands — what I mean is that you can tell the difference between a dry, professional handshake and one with some warm, polite expectancy in it. Exception would be if she initiates a hug. This is where my personal frame comes in though: even as a daily cheek-kisser, I feel uncomfortable hugging on first dates, so unless it's invited by her, I'd approach hugging with caution.

The very best first date I've had was... oh hey, exactly three weeks ago, and we actually greeted with a sort of awkward, dry handshake. The rest of the date went awesomely. We were both reserved, physically speaking, but on an interpersonal level, we totally hit it off. Still seeing and writing each other! I remember his jokes, cute smile, sweetly respectful reserve (I get turned on by men mature enough to respect my own reserve, see), and with hindsight, now see that first awkward handshake as an endearing sign of our shared introversion. YMMV depending on your and her personality, of course, but that's why I'm describing these details, just in case anything finds an echo with you and/or her :)
posted by fraula at 9:52 AM on December 23, 2010

Female, 20s, Northeasterner here --- in this situation, I think you should smile and say hello and extend your hand as she's walking up. I think it's a bad idea to "gauge" her as she's approaching. That seems like the recipe for abrupt moves and awkwardness.

A handshake doesn't necessarily have to be Super Formal and dry. It's very simply a sign of respect. I think starting off with an expression of respect could not possibly be a bad thing to do. Not everyone wants to be hugged by people they've just met.
posted by Ashley801 at 10:13 AM on December 23, 2010


Whenever I shake hands with a woman I say "Hi let's shake hands!" and then pump their arm a couple of times as if I'd just invented the gesture. It tends to smooth over the limp surprise and make the whole formal greeting thing more fun.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:34 AM on December 24, 2010

I went on a first date with a dude once who ended the night with a handshake. Second date ended with an awkward hug, third is none of your business. But lordy, did I get mileage out of the handshake. I thought it was hilariously weird and so did most of the people I talked to. I hope your didn't shake hands!
posted by Felicity Rilke at 10:57 AM on December 24, 2010

Dude, it is a whole freaking week later.

How did this go?
posted by I am the Walrus at 1:10 PM on December 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

posted by Pecinpah at 4:25 PM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm sorry! She rescheduled on me at the last second, and we've been too busy to reconnect since. I promise to come in here and update as soon as this goes down!
posted by Avenger50 at 8:55 AM on January 24, 2011

The flirty handshake is described as holding her hand with your normal handshaking hand, and then using your other hand to stroke her wrist and hand.

Does that sound weird and creepy to anyone else?
posted by !Jim at 6:56 PM on February 3, 2011

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