Monday, 29 September 2008

Kissing in Mexico: Friendly, not Flirtatious!

[Setting: the International Students Marquee at the University of X four days previous]

It is the evening before the International Students Cultural Show, and as the buzzing of human interaction slowly fades to a dull silence in the marquee, the last group practicing finally decides to call it a night. We are officially labelled the Mexican Dance Troop, but less than half of us are Mexican in descent. Besides three true Mexicans, we consist of two Chinese, one Taiwanese, and one Canadian-Brit, each of whom decided to put aside his or her true nationality for a day to become a representitive of Mexico's culture - a proud detail, in my mind, since every other performing group was culturally homogeneous.

As I tiredly bent over and gathered my belongings, I could see out of the corner of my eye the form of the handsome yet seemingly introverted Mexican who had taken on the lead male role in our dance brusquely make his way over to me. It was a matter of seconds before I was standing glued cheek to cheek with him, completely dumbfounded, aware only of the sound of an air blown kiss reverberating in my ear. Awkwardly, I placed my hand firmly on his shoulder, for it was all I could do to avoid staggering away in surprise. And then, just as quickly as he had come, he was gone. "So much for being introverted," I thought then, with a stream of colour bubbling to my face, and I too made my exit.

No, everyone, this Single Multilingual will not be cutting the "single" part off of her blog name anytime soon. (For tales of romance, please see a different blog!) What I do want to point out, though, is the differeing use of non-verbal communication in different cultures, and how it could cause misunderstandings.

For me, as a Canadian-Brit, any form of physical contact between members of the opposite sex is suggestive of a deeper meaning. If a Canadian man were to kiss my cheek, for instance, I would consider it forward of him, especially if he were a fairly new acquaintance, and would probably make a point thereafter to put a good ocean's distance between myself and him. But in Mexico, as I learned from this helpful website, it is customary for men to greet women with a small peck on the cheek.

Here are some rules for/things to know about cheek kissing if you ever face a situation where you must perform it:
  1. When you cheek kiss, you don't actually kiss the person. You touch cheeks and deliver an air blown kiss in the direction of the ear, as we learned in my example.
  2. Always kiss the right cheek or you could end up in a very sticky situation!
  3. Kissing is all about "expressing warmth, hospitality, and acceptance" (Roverhaus) and is usually not a form of flirting.
  4. Guys don't kiss other guys. (All the guys out there can breathe a sigh of relief!)
  5. Forget kissing your maid, local fruit vendor, or garbage man...kisses are special, and are reserved for people you consider to be friends!
I actually feel quite flattered knowing that I was "cheek kiss worthy!" :-)

2 comments:

Squilibrato said...

Ciao! Parli italiano?

amethyst said...

lol! Don't the French do the same thing? At an ITG tourney last year, an awesome player who came from Quebec made my acquaintance, and air-kissed me on each cheek when I left. I was flabbergasted! ... and Dany wasn't too happy either ;-)

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