Adjusting to the Man-Kiss

One thing that you, as a foreigner, notice immediately about Buenos Aires is that men kiss each other on the cheek all the time. I wrote about this in my Week 3 Random Observations and noted how it takes some getting used to. (Ok, it takes a lot of getting used to.) The Denver Post just published a travel story from Elliott Hester titled Adjusting to the Man-Kiss, where he recounts his own experiences with different cultures, from Europe to the Middle East to South America. The whole story is entertaining, but the part about Buenos Aires immediately caught my attention:

… Cairo might get my vote as a hand-holding capital for men. But when the subject turns to man-kisses, Buenos Aires is arguably the world’s most lively city.

In Argentina’s bustling capital, men can be seen kissing everywhere: on the street and in the subway, at soccer matches and tango clubs, in neighborhood cafes and high-end restaurants, during weekly protests at Plaza de Mayo and at presidential press conferences at “la Casa Rosada” (the Pink House).

If an Argentinean walks into a bar to greet five amigos, he’ll approach their table and systematically kiss every guy before taking a seat among them.

Having spent nearly a year in Buenos Aires, I no longer cringe when my friend Esteban opens his arms and plants a fat one on my cheek. Each time I greet Claudio, my tango teacher, we trade perfunctory kisses. It’s as normal as breathing.

Such cultural assimilation can create awkward moments among fellow Americans, however. Whenever I see my friend Greg, an expatriate from San Diego, we hesitate, unsure of how to greet each other.

But in Rome, we do as Romans do. Even if it takes a couple of clumsy seconds.

That awkward reaction is still definitely there for me. Maybe after a year, I’ll be completely used to it, but we’ll have to see.  Definitely check out the whole article for an interesting read.

    Adjusting to the man-kiss [Denver Post]

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7 Responses to Adjusting to the Man-Kiss

  1. Deborah September 14, 2008 at 7:40 pm #

    This is the first time that I’ve seen an American discussing this topic (maybe because you’re currently living abroad). Having spent a lot of time in different countries, there are things that you just grow to accept as perfectly normal in one and not the other. I find that when I’m in Europe, the concept of personal space is non-existent, but the minute someone steps within six inches of my face here in the US, I grow a bit uncomfortable. I think these “moments” are similar to you and your American friend meeting up and not being quite sure how to greet each other. It’s as if you subconsciously establish different rules for different people and places. Kinda quirky…

  2. Landlord September 15, 2008 at 1:52 pm #

    I think you touch on something that makes other countries from American so unique. I love seeing the cultural diversity of other countries first-hand. Hopefully you enjoy your trip in Buenos Aires!

  3. DaVe September 16, 2008 at 7:07 am #

    Landlord – I completely agree with you. We love being able to experience a different culture and embrace the differences. We’ve been loving our time here, even with the awkward moments.

  4. melissa September 17, 2008 at 6:48 pm #

    I agree with Landlord. That is the great thing about traveling to other countries. You get to see all the diverse cultures and different ways of life.

    Melissa

  5. Esteban September 25, 2008 at 4:18 pm #

    Hi, may I tell you 2 things:

    1) I’m from BsAs and have never got used to the kissing thing.
    2) It was circa 1986 that men started kissing like this – before that, it was a classic hand-shaking. I’m good with dates, so I’m 100% about it.

    Greetings from the UK!!!

  6. Andrew May 13, 2009 at 7:38 pm #

    You know, I have been coming to Buenos Aires for many years and it was not until recently when I started to feel subconscious about being terribly British and shaking hands. I am glad somebody else, an Argentine, feels that kissing blokes is somewhat new,as I have had that discussion many times and been shot down. Also, I think it an Italian and thus a Porteño or Rosario thing, as they still shake your hand, unless your close in the other provinces – well that's my experience anyway….

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