Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Two Kisses or a Wave?

It took me a little while to get used to the double kiss greeting here in Rio de Janeiro.  In the past, I would have a mini anxiety attack when I entered into heavily attended dinner parties. It was the question, do I kiss everyone? Do I have to?? 

I'm used to it now.  I'm a lean mean kissing machine. I can handle a fully attended Brazilian family event like a Brazilian!  Kisses flying here and there, hello hello, tudo bem?

I'm almost too used it actually.  I've found that I feel more awkward meeting people in the states than here.  At home I never quite know what to do anymore.  Do I give them the little wave? It seems so cold. Oh, nice to meet you but I'm not going to touch you.  That's be gross.  Do I shake their hand?  That seems so stiff. It's like I've run into the old vice principal of my high school instead of making a new friend.

All the stateside options seem so distant and at the same time, I can't hug them.  That would make me the creepy person. And if I opt to do the Brazilian kiss, I'd be a poser. I'm American, not Brazilian. Kissing hello here, I'm adapting. Kissing hello there, I'm pretending to be Brazilian. 

I find myself hoping I won't meet anyone new the first week. Give me a week to revert back to my North American ways and then I can be social.  Once that happens, I normally bust out the little wave unless encouraged by the other person to do more.

And should I meet a foreigner, I always give two kisses. I can't do one. It feels so incomplete. I know Mexicans and Paulistas give one kiss but I'm too far gone here in Rio de Janeiro to conform now. 

Of course it's not second nature. I don't kiss my pediatrician on the cheek. It seems weird.  I also can't seem kiss my dentist or maid hello.  I feel it's strange in working relationship, although I do kiss my students hello.  I'm just a big ball of kissing confusion.  I prefer to call it being American.


  1. The kissing thing can be so confusing. While we kissed in my family of origin, my many years of US pro-feminist male training taught me to seek permission before touching (nevermind kissing) a woman. Here in Brazil it is a whole new ball game.

    Like you, when I enter a crowded party I immediately think -- oh crap, it would be appropriate for me to circulate through the room and kiss (or shake hands and slap a shoulder if male) EVERYONE in the room. I am more of a small wave kind of guy (Although I am warming to all the kisses.)

    And what to do when my gaydar goes off? Should I kiss the guy on his cheeks (and possibly out him?) or shake his hand and slap his shoulder (and possible offend him with my stand-offish behavior?) Não é facil.

    Luiz kisses all his doctors and dentist (even the television repair woman). But I still reserve this for social gatherings.

  2. Me too Jim - although in the beginning I was confused (who am I kidding, I'm still confused)as to who deserves a kiss and who doesn't.
    I kissed my student hello one time and he gave me a really awkward look (maybe because we were in his office?) but he had kissed me goodbye the night before so I don't know what the hell!

    I usually just go by their lead.

    I do like the kiss hello, now that I'm more comfortable with it. I just wish there were a rulebook for all to follow....

  3. The kissing thing is still pretty hard for me, too. And you're right that people in Sao Paulo (myself included) only kiss once. So when we went to visit Alexandre's family in Bahia, I was sitting on a couch, and a cousin came into the house. So I stood up to greet him. We air kissed once, and then I sat back down again, but then he went for the other cheek, but I left him hanging in the air! haha.

  4. Ha! This is too funny, don't forget the 3rd kiss!
    They say the 3rd kiss is ( pra casar ), to wish you good luck to get married!

  5. Oh - I once kissed the housekeeper. You should have seen the look on my mother in law's face! LOL! Not only do you have to learn who to kiss, you have to learn who NOT to kiss!

  6. LOL, great post. It took me forever to figure out how to do the greeting kiss thing when I first met my wife's family, friends, etc. Now, after years of experience I have learned - never really kiss with the lips, just do the "kissy face" thing to each side of the person's (for me female person's) face. BTW, it was wonderful meeting you, Linds and Jim last weekend.

  7. When it comes to greetings, I'd gotten used to doing 2-3 kisses when I lived in Europe. It came naturally because everyone does it. Here in the US, I only do the kisses when I greet European friends (Dutch, French, etc.). I suppose once I get to Rio, it'll be like being in Europe again, but in the beginning I'll be sure to follow the other person's lead, just to be on the safe side!

    When I first re-patriated to the US after 3.5 years in Europe, I wasn't sure how to greet Americans because I was so used to the kiss greeting. Eventually I got back into hugging, because that's what folks here seem to do.

    When in Rome....