Cheek Kissing. It’s a custom I really love. For American’s such as myself it seems really intimate but it was explained to me on arrival by a coworker who pointed out that from a health perspective it’s far more sanitary than shaking hands. First of all you hardly touch cheeks and second of all people are likely to be less likely to have touched said cheek to something nasty earlier in the day than their hand. The hand is disgusting. Everybody knows this. But they smile and just grip harder…
Also I love the etiquette of kissing. In the vast majority of meetings everyone goes around and greets every other person, kissing them as they do the rounds. Every guy expat has had the male/male kissing experience. You know, the “oh my lord I am kissing a man.” Or for the Italians out there: “Oh my lord I am kissing a man not twice but only once.” This can be uncomfortable the first time as you’re right next to the person’s face when these thoughts are going through your head. However, they pretty much go away after a few months. Just kidding, they usually go away immediately.
However, this weird fear is not only on the part of expats and it turns out that somes Argentine guys don’t like kissing expat guys. It’s true! Why? I am not a porteño guy so I don’t know the motivation but I understand it as it was explained to me. So for most porteños this is just an automatic thing they do, they don’t think about it much. However, as soon as an expat is thrown into the mix, some question the acceptability of their own culture. Apparently the porteño is aware that it’s not the custom of the expat and for that reason he himself feels uncomfortable that perhaps his own culture could be misconstrued. Or that it just suddenly seems awkward. Or he doesn’t want the expat to misunderstand this as some kind of sexual advance. Or I have no idea.
Anyways, this is when the manshake enters. The manshake is when a porteño guy kisses everyone in the room (girl and boy alike) until he gets to a male expat, at which he shakes hands. Personally I can’t imagine myself in the States trying to bow to Japanese people to avoid seeming aggressive. Also it’s probable that I have the motivations way off on what these Argies think. Who knows?
Until next time.