Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/29/14
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Armenian
An Armenian Greeting
Arthur is a freshman at the University of Southern California studying applied math. He has grown up in Los Angeles with major Armenian influences. He is fluent in the language, and he speaks it at home with both parents. With a decent Armenian population in Los Angeles, he is able to practice some of his traditions more frequently.
One very specific rule one must follow in Armenian culture is to respect elders. One way of doing this is the traditional greeting Armenians do. They shake hands, as well as kiss each other on both cheeks. Kids must start doing this when they turn about 14. When they do not, it means whoever is the younger party is, is disrespecting their elder.
The greeting is also a way to show closeness with someone. When it comes to the people who are closer in age, they do not actually kiss each other on the cheek. It is as if they “fake-it.” They only touch cheeks and kiss the air. Arthur says he will only greet Armenians this way, and not people of other ethnicities. He also says he does not need to greet his younger cousins this way, unless they are close in age. It is something that has made him feel close to his roots. He loves being able to use his traditions that are not ones he uses every day.
This greeting is a ritual. It shows respect when it is done, as well as it is something that meant to be special. It is something only Armenians do with other Armenians. It is something that comes with age, and it is not meant to be taken lightly.
To me, this is a way to connect as a culture. Armenians have this greeting nobody else has. Other countries do have other greetings, but they do not have the same ones. It is a way to feel one is part of a heritage.