Tuesday, April 3, 2012

that awkward moment when ...

Cultural norms take getting used to; a learning curve is to be expected. 


Non-touchy people (such as myself) need to adjust accordingly to the traditions and rituals of the culture in which they hope to live, work, and build friendships.  


Because of this I have been forced to become more comfortable with the Haitian way of kissing a cheek upon greeting. I'd never go so far as to say that it feels natural to me, but I roll with it as best I can.


Every so often I might run into a person that does two cheeks or even three ... Not going to lie, all that back and forth really throws me for a loop.  I've never quite understood the rules of engagement because sometimes people full on kiss your cheek and other times they simply touch cheek to cheek. It is sort of like a cheek high-five. I don't know when you are supposed to do one and when you are supposed to do the other.  It's quite vexing, I know that much.


The three kisses crowd? 


That just seems excessive. Gives me vertigo.


I've been doing some charting and graphing and I can confirm that greetings and goodbyes take one billion times longer ... But to heck with that observation, what is time anyway?  


Saturday Paige's boyfriend was over visiting her.  He comes from the kiss-the-cheek-crowd so I always attempt to get with the program and follow the rules.  


He was sitting down on the floor with Paige when I leaned down to greet him.  I didn't know he was going to move and I completely misjudged and overshot the distance between us as I approached for my culturally appropriate greeting.  


In one terribly awkward slow-motion moment I missed his cheek, instead kissing below his cheek in the region commonly referred to as, the neck.  


Horrid.  


Earth swallow me whole.


Embarrassed, I quickly exited the room.  For the next several hours I hoped he didn't think I meant to kiss his neck. Creeper mom much?


A few days have passed now, and I think I am finally ready to talk about it.  


According to Wikipedia:

A kiss is a common gesture of greeting, and at times a kiss is expected. Throughout all cultures people greet one another as a sign of recognition, affection, friendship and reverence. While hand shakes, hugs, bows, nods and nose rubbing are all acceptable greetings, the most common greeting is a kiss, or kisses, on the cheek. Cheek kissing is “a ritual or social gesture to indicate friendship, perform a greeting, to confer congratulations, to comfort someone, or to show respect.”[1] Cheek kissing is most common in Europe and Latin America and has become a standard greeting in Southern Europe.
While cheek kissing is a common greeting in many cultures, each country has a unique way of kissing. In Russia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro the Netherlands and Egypt it is customary to “kiss three times, on alternate cheeks.”[2] Italians usually kiss twice in a greeting and in Mexico and Belgium only one kiss is necessary. In the Galapagos women kiss on the right cheek only[3] and in Oman it is not unusual for men to kiss one another on the nose after a handshake.[4] French culture accepts a number of ways to greet depending on the region. Two kisses are most common throughout all of France but in Provence three kisses are given and in Nantes four are exchanged.[5]

I just told Paige about this unfortunate moment in history.  She laughed until she cried. 
Have you had your own awkward cultural mess-up moment? 
Let's hear it.