From Tunis to Marseille and Madrid to Athens, the physical distancing guidance issued by the World Health Organization to stop the spread of coronavirus is changing ways of the Mediterranean people – who are very fond of using hugs or kisses to greet.
“This is the Mediterranean Sea. We like to say hello. We like to kiss each other two, three, four times, depending on the region.”
A resident of Athens misses kisses: “We miss the hugs, the kisses. Especially for our loved ones, our grandchildren and our children. But health comes first,” Ellie Komaiti admitted.
Marseille fishmongers: Helene Vanni and Daniel Reggio echo similar sentiments: It’s a gesture of affection, and we miss it when we don’t do it anymore, Helene says. Daniel has plans post-COVID: “We’ll make up for it when lockdown’s over, when Covid’s gone.”
Expressing feelings through touch is an old tradition, a Madrid psychologist, Timanfaya Hernandez: “It is an important part of the consultations… we must have psychological consultations and look at people who have the anguish of not being able to be close to their loved ones, and family.”
For a few weeks now, the restrictions are being eased world over and slowly old ways are creeping up but restrictions remain on number of people that can gather and distancing is strictly to be enforced.
“We have started to re-socialize. To see each other for real, to have dinners, but indeed, we don’t kiss each other.” We have dinner together, but sometimes at the end of the meal, we forget the barrier gestures a bit, we get a little closer,” Genevieve Zoia, a French anthropologist added.
But not all is gone with the COVID-19 crisis that now requires greeting each other from a distance. Some have tried to invent new social rituals, like saying hello with the elbows or feet or just tapping the chest while waiting for things get back to normal.