So I did the unthinkable today – this first day of school in Bavaria – and lunged to kiss the teacher’s cheek. I was entering the classroom with my son, feeling grateful and high, and for some reason this felt like the most natural thing to do. What was I thinking??? It wasn’t enough to shake her hand, no, some invisible (yet definitely malevolent) force pushed me to hug her. Why on Earth did I do that? No wonder my son and I keep getting those weird looks around here… 🙂
NEVER ever kiss a German teacher. Unless you’ve known her a really long time and she is leaving the country or something. 🙂 The poor woman, I could instantly tell she was so embarrassed. She didn’t know how to react and for what seemed like an eternity we were suspended in this long, slow-motion handshake where I kept getting closer and closer to her cheek. In the end, inertia did it. I touched it. There, it was done, and it felt instantly wrong. As a teacher, she is more than a private person. She is a role.
I wasn’t trying to get under her skin, I promise. Last year, when my son started first grade and I took her a small bouquet of flowers on the very first day, I wasn’t trying to bribe her. I swear. I keep doing these things.
I really should stop spending the summers in southern (or eastern) countries.
Last night, a friend of mine from Moldova called, panting. Her daughter was starting kindergarten. “Should I buy the Erzieherinnen some flowers”, she asked? “Should I, perhaps, buy the other children there some sweets?” God no!, I yelled. “What, do I just go empty-handed? Isn’t that rude?” It’s not rude, I told her. It’s completely normal. Plus you might even get reprimanded. Sweets are completely taboo (for good and obvious reasons in kindergartens that try to teach healthy eating habits) and please do not do anything out of the ordinary. It will just be awkward.
And then I go and do something like this myself.
I guess it’s something in our blood. In our upbringing. You don’t go to other people’s houses for the very first time without a small gift. You don’t entrust your child to a teacher or a doctor without a token of your appreciation. You believe women should be celebrated with flowers, because you were taught they they are like flowers themselves. You share. You even force your children to share. You offer the stranger the best you have, as a sign of hospitality. Sometimes, you shove it down their throats. You somehow grow up feeling like a grateful supplicant all the time. You’re inclined to be kind and to flatter other people into kindness.
But you also simply feel more. Romanians are very emotional. Which can work against them sometimes. As I’m sure it did with me kissing the teacher this morning. I wasn’t aiming to accomplish anything. It was just that, after a long non-German holiday, this thing resurfaced in me that makes me hug the people I like. This thing called emotion.
This thing that makes Romanian teachers take home a trunkful of flowers on the first day of school.