Lifestyle & Culture

Letícia Batista: Will the new post-coronavirus ‘normal’ mean the end of hugs, affection and the human touch?

A good friend of mine got me addicted to “MasterChef” so that I just cannot miss one single episode. One of my favorite things about the show is the feeling of fair and friendly competition. The hosts are kind and encouraging to the cooks, and their feedback is always constructive, although pretty honest. Every time someone presents their dish and listens to the judges’ observations and suggestions, they go back to a round of hugs, kisses, high fives and all sorts of displays of affection from their fellow contestants. It is
so lovely to see.

It is human.

The other night I was watching the show, and as the first hug was shown on camera, my mind made a “joke”: “There’s corona all over her now….” I gave a half-a-mouth smile, but soon it struck me: why is it drawing my attention now? We have ALWAYS done that. It is so nice, so human. But now hugging someone became almost a life-threatening action.


Brazilians are huggers. Huggers and kissers. We are all about the touch, the feel, the be-together-for-real. Our traditional Sunday lunch lasts the whole day sometimes. It is packed with a ton of food, lively music,
laughs, all the family … and hugs, kisses, “I love you’s,” “how was your week?” another hug and so on.

Each part of the country has its unique etiquette, so you might find one, two or three kisses on the cheek as a standard greeting, many times, combined with a hug – even for your hairdresser, for the coworker you meet at the supermarket, for your sister’s best friend’s aunt.

In a super-formal situation such as a job interview, you will only shake hands, but even that brief touch is necessary. I can picture a Brazilian
bowing gracefully for Queen Elizabeth II and then opening arms to hug her; after all, “I’ve already done the formal thing, now let me greet her properly. She is so cute!”

I get it … no hugs

It was a challenge to help myself from hugging Dutch people. They are all about handshakes, and that is it. At least, this has been my experience so far. (By the way, If you are Dutch and you are reading this, please let me know if I got the wrong impression!)

A few months ago, I went to the beauty salon I love here in Eindhoven, and I told the professional, who happens to be the owner of the place, that the next day was my birthday. Because of that, I added, jokingly, she had to make me extra pretty that time. Not only did she do that, but she also wished me all the best and gave me one of the beauty products they sell at the salon as a birthday gift!

I was SO surprised and happy that I… hugged her! I only realized what a big
no-no it was as I already had my arms around her. When I went back there, weeks later, she made sure she quickly extended her hand to say goodbye, before I could play any tricks on her ….

But now I got it: no hugs.

Actually, we ALL got it: no hugs, no kisses, no handshakes. Basically, do not touch ANYTHING, especially people. I saw on the news people making fun of Prince Charles for being forgetful and still trying to shake hands with the people he meets. Think about it: the man has been raised to be one of the
most polite individuals on earth, and he has lived a long life doing a great job at that. How can we blame him for having a hard time letting such a powerful (and beautiful) habit go?

Can anybody tell if he is alone in that? Yeah, I did not think so.

Cautious affection

At this point, I can only think that this situation is going to have a considerable impact on our lives forever. Although some of us have already pictured ourselves surviving some kind of apocalypse (thanks,
Hollywood!), none of us has ever lived a situation even remotely similar to the one we are facing now. And what this means is that we do not necessarily have the physical and psychological resources to endure the present circumstances.

Everything is brand new. We are learning on the go, living one day at a
time, doing our best to keep our beloved ones safe, and our minds sane.
When all this is gone, the impressions left by the coronavirus outbreak might be visible. I can already predict a good one; people being more aware of hygiene habits, and proper hand-washing becoming a common practice.

How cool would that be?!

However, the social distancing, so asked-for and so necessary nowadays, is what really pops out for me in terms of possible social change. I mean, are we going to think twice before hugging or shaking hands with someone? I am most curious to see what will happen to us all. I just hope the lessons learned will be useful and make our lives brighter.

Inspired by so many “MasterChef” episodes, and with so much time at home, I have been taking the opportunity to learn delicious recipes to cook for the ones I love, dreaming of the day we will be together again. I cannot wait to hug my family and my friends after all this, and I will do it consciously. Because before being a Brazilian hugger, I am a human being, and I need it. It is simply human.

Letícia with Copenhagen’s opera house in the background

About the author:

Letícia Batista was born in Porto Alegre, south Brazil. She is a content creator with a Master’s Degree in Literary Studies. Her thesis was on avant-garde movements and Brazilian music, which she is most passionate about. 

She has the best memories from Israel, where she lived from 2012 to 2014. Currently living in The Netherlands, more precisely in Eindhoven, she is once again enjoying the ease of traveling around, always accompanied by “the most beautiful and peaceful pair of green eyes I have ever,” as she describes her husband.

A curly fanatic, enthusiastic dancer and devoted home baker, Leticia’s motto is “everyone’s life is material for an incredible movie or a great book.” She loves to tell a story and, therefore, writes whenever she can.

Read more from Letíca here.

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