Frequent readers of this paper are perhaps aware that your columnist does more than publish this authoritative, well-researched column on the greatest workplace dilemmas of our time.
He also writes about watches, clocks and such timekeeping devices. This involves the occasional trip to Switzerland and France and long arduous weekends at high-end luxury watch conferences.
But then who said journalism is supposed to be easy?
However, one of the most tension-inducing elements of such trips to continental Europe is a particular social-cum-business custom. This custom has me quaking in my shoes even before I have been let into the Schengen region by a particularly unfriendly member of the Corps des gardes-frontière.
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And that is the random, unpredictable, savage and some might even say scandalous European tendency to kiss. And not just behind two red hibiscus flowers, as is Indian custom. One moment you are waiting for a meeting with a female Swiss CEO of a watch company. The next moment you have assaulted her in the bosom with your audio-recorder. Because she has leaned forward for a quick peck or two, and you have not.
Timing is everything when it comes to osculation. Timing and direction. Usually I tend to take a deep breath and lean in right-cheek-first. But there is no guarantee that this will work.
When you finally get the matter of timing and direction sorted, there is the issue of repetition. In France alone, I am told, there are some regions that kiss only once, while in others it is perfectly normal to kiss each other five times. Imagine a meeting in one such five-kiss region which involves an assortment of seven or eight men and women. I don’t see how they’ll get anything done before lunch. And yet Standard & Poor’s has just confirmed France’s AAA rating.
Thankfully this week at least one European nation has decided that enough is enough. This kissing business has just gone too far.
The Knigge Society of Germany has called for a ban on all kissing in the workplace. The self-appointed etiquette watchdog says that it has been inundated with emails from German cubiclists troubled by a rising prevalence of ‘Bussi-Bussi’ or kissing.
According to the Knigge society’s website (www.knigge-akademie.de) this is due to a Mediterranean influence that is “too close, too silly, too un-German”.
Unfortunately, the society’s website is only available in either German or Chinese—a sign of things to come no doubt—and so far I’ve been reading via Google translations. The results are terribly amusing. An excerpt:
Many do not even know how to do it properly. Perhaps the left-legal Left in France rich? Can you feel the lips or touching the cheek? Smacked or breathy? Although currently not necessarily the most urgent problem on our planet, the busy greeting kisses but surprisingly many people. And who want to know what etiquette says probably so. Due to many requests, saw the German company now Knigge induced to take a stand. From now applies: Kissing prohibited. At least in the office.
Now I know what you’re thinking: How is this relevant in the Indian context? This never happens here! Nobody simply walks up and kisses us!
Clearly you haven’t been in my position in the Mint office.
But I think we must take this opportunity to press for even more far-reaching cubicle reform. There are several things I can think of that are as revolting as Bussi-Bussi. For instance, a little part of my heart dies when someone asks me to “introduce a new recruit to everyone else in the office”.
Shudder. First of all, this request is impossible to refuse. Otherwise, the recruit, who could become CEO one day, will think you are a total sociopath. Furthermore, it is a virtual certainty that you will run into someone you have no idea about.
Sidin: And this is... Swati?
Swetha: No Swetha.
Sidin: Right. And Swetha takes care of...
Swetha: Knowledge Management.
Sidin: We have a knowledge management department?
This terror must be banned immediately. Give the recruit a book of photos with names and responsibilities. In fact, this could use up two or three days of the orientation. HR, please note.
Another custom ripe for banning is the idea that EVERYONE must turn up for an office birthday. If you work in a large office this is sheer torture.
Swetha: Come to the conference room for birthday no?
Sidin: Whose birthday?
Sidin: Who is Gokul?
Swetha: (generally points at the crowd milling around the cardboard box of samosas)
Sidin: Gokul! Happy birthday dude... (hugs)
Dude: I am the guy who supplies samosas.
Gokul: I am Gokul.
Sidin: Gokul! Happy birthday dude... (hugs)
The Knigge Society has breached the walls. We must follow them into battle. Let us reclaim the cubicle from this newfangled social madness.
Cubiclenama takes a weekly look at the pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org