Big-hearted people in a small country!
We provide some guidance on how to avoid shock and surprise, in Armenia, and not only here as some things are common throughout all Caucasus. You will laugh a lot but this info will help to overcome some things related to cultural shock in Caucasus. All traditions that seem so weird for a guest are generally indicating the heart love and unlimited warmth of this mountainous people.
So, coming back to Armenian weirdest habits, it is worth mentioning the widespread custom among men of kissing each other while greeting. The traditional greetings suppose shaking hands and kissing on a cheek (you can notice that sometimes there are 3 kisses on a cheek and don’t even ask how they do it in a few seconds!) However, if you are a guest, it will be acceptable for you just to shake hands. The kissing element supposes that there is friendship or that people have known each other for certain period of time.
Seeing this greeting procedure, many people might think that most Armenian men are gay, but that isn’t so, if not to say – exactly the opposite. Armenian people are very traditional and conservative, real mountainous people who do not encourage homosexual or same-sex relationships. There is a strange custom that applies to female population as well. In Armenia, kissing each other on a cheek is a common thing, as well as throughout the whole world. However, Armenian girls attract attention by holding hands with each other while walking. No, this doesn’t indicate homosexual relationships. Couple of girls holding hands present friends who are just holding hands. Nothing more, really. Strange indeed, but those girls can’t even imagine what too much hugging and holding hands could alternatively mean!
We suggest accepting all the mentioned above as an expression of love and warmth towards each other in this hospitable country.
Another example of heartwarming and welcoming attitude in this country is the great attention of strangers towards kids. It is a usual thing to make remarks to other children if they are making too much noise or if they are playing some dangerous games. There is no any evil intention or anger, it is just how parents usually bring up their children and they wish the same for others.
If you use public transport you will see how strangers start talking to children, asking how old they are, what subjects they mostly like at school, or just offer a candy. This is a common thing; no need to worry. Of course, there is basic caution towards strangers in the streets and public places, but generally strange people treat others’ children with great love and it is perceived as granted. A child always brings smile to one’s face.
Another tendency is giving way in transport and in every other possible place to elderly people, women and even young girls. No certain explanation is actually needed for this after getting to know local traditions, where men are supposed to always protect women and girls and care about them, and where the value of family (grandparents and elder people) is very much appreciated. So, if you happen to see young man sitting while a woman or young girl is standing beside him, you can be sure that everyone around accuses him in their minds if not loudly making remarks.
And the last piece of advice for calming down the cultural shock will be about personal space. There is no personal space in Caucasus! People here like to speak face to face looking straight in one’s eyes without losing contact and space between them.