I have friend back home. Let’s call her Kelly*. Kelly is originally from California. Kelly is a hugger. I am a New Yorker. I don’t touch people.
It took a while to get used to greeting Kelly. My usual verbal greeting would not suffice. Handshakes, fist bumps, high fives, none of that would work. She went in for the hug. I mean real hugs, not the quick 5 second hugs. I used to joke that saying hello to her involved getting to second base.
I do hug some people, close friends and family. Kelly is now a very good friend. I’ve accepted her cultural values of greeting people by West Coast Make Out Hug. Little did I know that this would be good practice for me.
I now have to physically interact with people in order to say hello. There is touching. There is a lot of touching. I am not yet used to it.
I’m trying. I’m really working on it. I think I can do the hug. I now know that I pretty much have to always hug. I’ve accepted it. I can do it.
What I still haven’t figured out is the kiss. Yes, there is kissing. And here’s the thing: everyone does it differently and I am supposed to just know how each variation. You see, it’s not just learning how to hug/kiss/greet people in the host country.
As an expat, you are surrounded by other expats as well as locals. You have to become fluent in greeting people from every culture. If you’re like me (not a natural hugger) it’s quite an adjustment. Also, it’s a bit tricky.
Sometimes, it’s two kisses. Sometimes it’s three. I recently learned that the Swiss do three. I feel I need some sort of cheat sheet so that I can know how to say hello correctly.
I tried to come up with my own version to limit actual touching. However, I was told that the Boca Air Kiss would not suffice and I should really stop embarrassing myself. I have to do the side of the cheek kiss on each cheek during the hug (or three, or whatever).
Like I said, I’m learning. I’m adjusting. But I still feel like this inside:
*It’s possible that Kelly may be her real name.