Original Text: “My family has a lot of different customs. And a big part of Russian culture is in the greeting. Basically, whenever you greet someone you have to shake hands and make eye contact. That’s specifically for men like they shake hands. If it’s a man and a woman, you shake hands but more gently. If it’s two women they kiss on the cheek three times. But for men shaking hands, basically, you have to make eye contact, but a really interesting rule is that you cant greet someone through a doorway. You have to invite the person in before you make a greeting cuz it’s seen as bad luck. I learned this from my family, anytime I tried to hug someone or greet someone through the door, they would be like ‘No you have to bring them in and welcome them’”
Context: The informant is an 18-year-old first year at USC. He is from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, but his family is from Russia. He learned this Russian greeting custom from his close and extended Russian family and still practices it today. He is a male, so he has participated in the man-man and man-woman greetings. It is a way that he can “relate” to his Russian family and show his love for his heritage, and of course not bring bad luck upon his family.
Analysis: In Russian culture it is bad luck to shake hands through a doorway, and people will refuse to shake your hand if you attempt it, just as the informant described. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that the in-between space of the doorway, outside, and inside is a liminal space. A greeting cannot be properly given in a liminal space because of the magical bad luck that exists because of it. Shaking someone’s hand inside the home is a physical manifestation of the greeting due to the location of the handshake. Russian culture is patriarchal, therefore it makes sense that men would shake hands in a display of power versus kiss because shaking hands is not associated with sexuality or expressions of love. They also shake hands with women gently versus firmly because they are more fragile/dainty. Women kiss each other on the cheek, mirroring the emphasis on love and sexuality that permeates women’s lives as opposed to men.