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A kiss is just a kiss - Greeting in Argentina

Being from an English speaking country, our norm is to greet most people with a handshake and friends and family with a hug. Even then, there are still friends and family who prefer not to hug and just give a warm verbal greeting.

I stumbled across this little article this morning -


and it got me thinking.

Here in Argentina, the greeting is a single kiss on the right cheek - or more like a cheek touch, there isn't always lip contact.  It´s not terribly difficult to grasp the technique and while I´m comfortable with obvious differences (friends – kiss/hug, strangers – peck), those people in the middle of these two points can be somewhat awkward. Professional relationships are a whole other ball game. After meeting my new doctor for the first time, we said our goodbyes with a kiss on the cheek as this is a person I am to develop a sense of trust with. The doctor that made a house call last week gave us a handshake since it was the one and only time we were to see him.  But the hairdresser I  saw just once recently said goodbye with a kiss. It leaves a wee bit of confusion about the whole thing.  The greeting kiss also means that leaving a party requires you to take 10 minutes to usually give everyone a kiss goodbye. I will admit that there have been times in the early morning when I just long to be able to stand up and wave my hand in a sweeping gesture of goodbye to everyone at the party and save myself an extra half an hour of saying goodbye.

What this article highlighted above does, is get a little too over the top about it all. We don´t really need to explain the social dynamics of what is going on, and often we´re too worried about doing the right thing and heaven forbid we should induce some degree of social awkwardness. Sure, it is a challenge watching myself manuever between confidently greeting friends and family in this new culture, and standing awkwardly behind my husband to follow what he does when meeting a group of new group of people for the first time.

The article states that greeting with a kiss is becoming meaningless through overuse. What a load of rubbish. Every time I greet a friend with a kiss, it is a sign of affection and gratitude for having them in my life and what they give me. And believe me, there is no misreading of the kiss. The kiss you give when greeting your boy or girlfriend, husband or wife is substantially different to how you would greet your friends in a social situation so there is no risk of there being any confusion over any significance of the gesture. To a new social buddy, the kiss shows a sense of welcome, openess and trust. Travelers that we have hosted in this fair city love this social etiquette and embrace it whole heartedly.

So for those traveling to Buenos Aires  and who want to really feel like they are getting into the culture, this greeting is a simple and easy way to feel immersed in the culture here. The best advice is to be open and just go with the flow. There is no need for awkward embarrassment. Like they say, when in Rome!


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