Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The greeting!

One thing that I've always pondered is the simple greeting in Mexico. You know, the walk into a room say hello to everyone greeting. Only no, it's not that easy. I swear when moving to Mexico, and/or marrying a Mexican there needs to be a school on greetings for us expats!

In my perfect world the school would have a curriculum that looked something like this:

Lesson 1: The Kiss : on the one cheek not both. Now for a girl like me who comes from a very Croatian family it's both cheeks. A kiss on each cheek, which can be tricky enough - what cheek do you go for? In Mexico I learnt real quick it's just the one, and okay that seems simple enough. I can do this!

Lesson 2: The When: alllll the time. Meaning, every time you go somewhere and it does not matter if there are 2 people or 20 you give them each a kiss. This was a little more tricky as I still catch myself thinking "really, everyone? That could take me a few minutes. What if I forget about someone? How do I get alllll the way around the table to get to them? Pressure. Pressure." Okay, so you must learn to adapt. It's to everyone that is in the house.

Lesson 3: Whom : Okay, we are getting tricky again. Basically what I do is I kiss who ever goes in for it. LOL. Good thing I'm still talking about pecks on the cheek! In reality this is mostly true, but hubby has tried to teach me a few things or two. Family = Always. Friends = Always. Acquaintances = Most of the time. The help = Almost never. To me that is weird.

The acquaintances that I barely know I have to kiss them? However, my cleaning lady who I see every day, never? Not even on her birthday?? I love my cleaning lady.I do realize it would be weird to do daily, but never? Not even special occasions? My yoga teacher is okay, why? I don't know.  Another example? We have a restaurant that we visit a couple times a week. We have made some pretty good friends with the owner, and his stafff. I always kiss the owner on his cheek, and the head waiter. The rest of the staff it depends if they go for the kiss or not. I follow suit. Hubby tells me I don't have to, and all I have to do is extend my hand. How though? How can you escape when they are already leaning in??

Now another important thing to take note of  is most men in Mexico don't kiss the cheeks of one another. It would really have to depend on whether they are family or not, or know mi brother. Women, we kiss the cheeks of both men and women.

Could you even imagine....
Okay, so Lesson 4 would have to be about avoiding the kiss, and extending the hand. This is where I'm really lost and have no clue. Someone else will have to fill in that part of the lesson for me!!!

Ohhh and we can't forget Lesson 5 - How long inbetween visits: How long after seeing that person does that first kiss last? An hour? The day? A few hours? To me it doesnt' last that long. In my world I'm safer just giving the extra beso rather than unintentionally insult someone. That would be my word of advice to you.

So yeah, there you have it. I think I much preferred my world of hand shaking with a hug here or there. Also, I am a firm believer that germs won't be passed off so much. I dont' want to get sick! I don't want any cold sores! Nor do I want to get any one else sick. Maybe I over think the whole thing, but to me I'm just not the biggest fan!!!

However, I do have to admit that I am getting much better at this kiss on the cheek meet and greet. I appreciate the fact that it is about being polite, and acknowleding someone. It is a bit nicer than not even saying hello like some people do back home.

I love my hubby, and I do love Mexico. I will not be the odd man out, and I will continue to do as they do. Kiss, kiss! Ooops...I mean kiss. Just one :)


KfromMichigan said...

I always kiss either one or both cheeks, BUT your lips don't have to actually touch the cheek! I see no reason why you can't kiss the help on their birthday or Christmas. It's all about how much you like the person, same goes with the restaurant help. I don't think there are "special rules."

Anonymous said...

For some reason, it took me years to get this right.

Like you, I realized the best thing to do is kiss EVERYBODY when arriving at a small social gathering. Even if you've never met them before. Even if there are 20 people in the room. Nobody is ever offended here by a kiss, so best to go the safe route.

I used to hate it, but now I see it as a great icebreaker :)

Alice said...

just yesterday i was thinking about this when my landlady and her handyman came over to fix something. i used to not kiss her (i guess we were in the getting-to-know-you stage) but now i do. Then, I extended my hand to the handyman because i'd never met him before. but it made me wonder, if i did get to know him, would i give him a kiss, too? or does my landlady even greet him with a kiss? probably not. i guess it's a hierarchical thing. but if you like your maid, you should def. greet her with a kiss!

Leslie Limon said...

When I was little, I was taught the handshake/kiss on the cheek. We always greeted friends and family that way. So that's what I was used to.

Then I married Hubby. His family isn't very big on the cheek kissing or hugging. Which to me was extremely strange, because every other Mexican family I know is. But they are big on the handshake.

We see Hubby's parents and siblings everyday, so we just say "Buenas tardes" when we see eachother. No handshakes or anything.

As for greeting your cleaning lady, a hug is okay for special occasions such as her birthday, Christmas and Mother's Day (if she's a mom).

Anonymous said...

Great post! I agree with you that this whole business of kissing people on the cheek when one enters a room and LEAVES a room can be quite complicated especially for those of us who are accustomed to our personal space. It is a custom that on the one hand I have come to enjoy but on the other hand it can still stress me out as people here can be easily offended if you do not do it everytime that you see them.Now, when I go home to Canada for a visit I find myself automatically leaning in for the "kiss" when I greet and say goodbye to my friends and family and some of them are just not comfortable with that type of greeting. As far as giving a kiss to your maid I see no harm in that whatsoever..I do..not every week but definitely on special occasions.

Jackie said...

To kiss or not to kiss...sometimes I feel like such a Gringa when I walk in a room of 20 people and have to give them all a kiss. And like you mention, if we don't know someone, and we don't give them a kiss, we'll offend them. So I've learned to just go around the room, give that cheek to cheek kiss, and if I come across someone I don't know, I say, "Hola, mucho gusto, soy Jackie." As I give them a kiss.

I give my cleaning lady a kiss and hug on special occasions.

What I think is strange is when someone's hand is dirty and instead of shaking your hand, they give you their arm. It makes me feel sooo stupid! I would rather they just say their hand is dirty like sometimes if a person is sick and they feel uncomfortable about giving you a kiss.

Were you in Cancun when the whole "influenza" thing swept through Mexico? I remember the health department recommending to avoid the whole kiss and hand shake thing to prevent spreading germs.

Sorry for such a long comment...great topic!

Brendan & Louise said...

Haha! I know exactly how you feel! I once went in for the wrong cheek and it was like an awkward almost kissing in the lips dodging embarrasing. I still cant get the kissing thing right, im super akward about it. much to learn....

On Mexican Time said...

KfromMich - Amiga you do both cheeks!!! Did hubby teach you that? LOL!!!Do you know I've actually been critisized for not touching the cheek!! Swear, and by some random jerk too! LOL!! I keep being told by many ppl there definitely are rules, but who knows! Sometimes I think being a gringa we can get away with not knowing exactly.... Ignorance is bliss! LOL!!

Gringation - Hahaha, THANK YOU, so at least I am not alone on this!!! You sure are right, no one will ever be offended that you did kiss them, but the opposite is too risky!!! GREAT icebreaker!!!

Alice - I couldn't agree with you more about it being a hierarchical classification. Also, in your situation I would have done the exact same thing - I think handy man is one of those rules that's sort of never. I think with my maid I should have kissed her on her birthday. I'm going to ask a few of my girlfriends that are Mexican what they think? I know most will say no, and a few yes. It's a good place to start!!

On Mexican Time said...

Leslie - Wow, I have to say your hubby's family may be the only Mexican family I've heard of that aren't big on the kissing!!! I like you was raised to kiss on the cheek, but like I mentioned in my post it was to both cheeks!! LOL! My grandpa on my dad's side was always weird and told me I don't have to, hahaha, maybe he's a bit more like your hubby's family!!!

Basically what you said about the cleaning lady has been the consensus here among most of our friends I've asked, but truthfully they've all been male!! So I'm glad to get your perspective!!

Ashlie - OMG, you are soooo right. I completely left out the part about kissing people even when they leave the place!! Oh geez - that is when I get very weirded out and think I was only here 5 minutes, do I reallllly need to walk around and kiss everyone again?? Also, when I go to Canada I sometimes catch myself about to do the same thing!! Hahaha - I think on special occasions I will give her a hug and kiss!! I just passed her 21st bday, but she is pregnant so soon she'll have her baby and before that I'll DEFINITELY give her a kiss with her gift :)

On Mexican Time said...

Jackie - Looks like all of us gringas have adapted well to the kissing rule(s) here. Just go around and kiss, we can not offend anyone by doing this! Also, to kiss the cleaning lady on special occasions seems to be a go!!

Hahaha - I have to laugh about the arm being handed over? I have never had that I dont' think, but can picture it perfectly!! I know after I work out I insist to people that they don't want me to give them a kiss! Hahaha!!! I would feel gross, so I assume they would too and won't be offended with my explanation!!!

We were in Cancun for part of it, but not living here for all of it. Lasted a very long time as it started in the high season, and ended at the end of the year almost....I do remember health officials advising everyone not to kiss. To me that means it's full agreement that it is not the healhiest, and it is a very easy way to spread germs of any kind. Not just the swine flu!!! That's one of the things that bothers me about it. For example I found out that a few ppl I greet get cold sores, well do you know how easy they spread? Sometimes they dont' even need to have one but can spread the germs... Now I know it's only a cold sore, but i don't want them!!!

Brendan and Louise - EXACTLY!!! It can turn into the most awkward situation sometimes, can't it! LOL!! I had some punk kid turn his cheek on purpose once and plant a kiss on my lips! I was sooo annoyed!!!! LOL!!!! YES, a ton for us expats to learn, but fun at the same time :)

Katie said...

I studied in Mexico for a year (9 years ago), and now I go back to visit friends quite frequently. I'm very shy, so the whole kissing thing stresses me out greatly (more so with people I don't really know or when there's a huge crowd).

On Mexican Time said...

Katie - welcome :) Wow, where abouts in Mexico were you living?? I have a gf here from NY and she is verrry shy herself. It stresses her out so bad, and ppl do think she's rude!! She's not, just extremely shy, and doesn't speak any Spanish!!! That would certainly make things more difficult!!!