I am standing at the departure area in Noi Bai airport in Ha Noi. People come and go carrying luggages and looking for the monitors which display the check in counters. Young Vietnamese men and women wear cotton jackets with a company name printed on them. It is the company which is sending them to work overseas. They sit in groups on their luggages. They have probably arrived too early and the check in has not yet started. They look like factory workers on a shift break with their uniforms, sitting sipping imaginary green tea. One very young man arrives accompanied by his all family. Several generations accompanying him for his departure to who-knows-where: grand mother, mother, father, sisters and brothers. They all look nervous. The good bye, the departure for an unknown country maybe in the middle east.
I observe the group. They do not exchange many words. At one point the mother gives a shy hug to his son. A very quick hug, with her harms around his waist. She does not look at him while hugging and he also looks somewhere else a bit embarrassed (or maybe touched but he cannot show that). He then bends down takes his luggage and move to the check in. It is all happening too fast and tears starts to fall from his mother eyes. I am touched as well. She takes paper napkin from her trousers and dries her eyes but it does not work. She sobs a couple of times. I look at her family members. Some look at the brother. Some talk to each other, but nobody hugs her or put and harm around her shoulder. Why? I almost feel going there and do it myself.
It is obvious that different countries have different rules when it comes to exchange of emotions. Hugging is not something you do in Vietnam or only very rarely. It is too much linked to showing emotions.
Where I come from, Italy, hugging is more common among male friends or relatives. In other cases with people you meet, or female friends, and so on a cheek to cheek kiss is what is more common and often substitutes a hug. In Finland, on the other hand, kisses are not very common or even rare. While a hug with a certain careful distance between the bodies, avoidance of cheek touch and a slight tapping of the hand on the shoulder is more acceptable. In the UK nice hugging and tapping among colleagues and friends.
Different places, different habits and how many words can a hug say when there are feelings I think while the mother leaves from the glass door of the airport. Her thoughts for his son and the memory of a shy hug at Noi Bai airport.