DEAR MISS MANNERS: For two years, I have been getting a manicure at a nail salon every other week, with the same technician every time. We are cordial and friendly. The conversation is polite, but not extensive, as her English is limited and I don’t speak her language.
She is always professional, and I am happy with her service. For the past few months, we’ve had a brief hug goodbye, initiated by her, and I feel comfortable with that.
However, she has begun to say “love you,” which leaves me uncomfortable as to how to respond. I do not wish to be rude, but nor do I wish to reciprocate the sentiment. I am not obligated to say anything, but it feels like she’s waiting for me to reply.
GENTLE READER: How could one blame an immigrant for being confused about the meaning of this sort of effusion when the natives have never sorted it out?
To some of us, a hug is an expression of personal affection for the hug-ee. To many others, it is the modern equivalent of a handshake.
Language has similarly progressed. “Amazing” and “incredible” mean that something is OK, maybe good, but not startling or unbelievable. Your manicurist doubtless meant to express her appreciation of you, not her passion.
Without embarrassing her, you could model a more restrained warmth. Take the initiative by offering her a handshake (presuming that your nails are dry) and by saying something merely pleasant, such as, “I am always very happy to see you.”