Wednesday, 26 March 2014

When Cultures Collide!
We lived in Chihuahua for 5 wonderful years.  I would say that we 'acculturated' during that time - to the extent that I found myself reacting negatively to my own culture.  I'm just gonna throw it out there, get it on the table, but there are things that Latin American just does bettter! Whew!  Let me explain before you get all hot and bothered!

On any given day in Chihuahua I would be kissed by upwards of a dozen people.  Do I mean we Canadians need to kiss more!?  No!  Some of you may remember me talking to you about my friend Julian Reyes?  After I told him about Canadian culture and our personal space factor - his goal became to break mine down completely.  He didn't understand our 'distance', but he sure did a good job of shrinking mine.  

See, it is the significance of the kiss, not the kissing itself.  The men don't kiss each other.  The part, that is something we Canadians and Americans can learn from, is the importance of greeting.  In Latin America the greeeting is HUGE.  You always greet - how you greet depends on the relationship somewhat.  For instance, when you enter the doctor's office waiting room, you greet everyone else already in the room, and would be viewed as rude were you not to so. When you pass someone in the street or park, if eye contact is made, you greet them.

If you are being introduced to someone for the first time, the minimal greeting is a handshake, male or female.  If you have met the person for the second time - a kiss on the cheek.  Men to men greeting is not done by kissing but a half hug with a slap on the back - the closer the relationship the more energetic the hug/slap.  

The 'greeting' has huge significance. When you arrive at a gathering, you greet EVERYONE!  It would be seen as offensive to  exclude someone.  When you leave this is repeated.  You will not 'wave to the group' but go arround individually and say good bye to everyone - even if you have to interrupt a conversation.

So why does this clash with my culture?  Well, after 5 years of being hugged and kissed, repeatedly and on a daily basis (this coming from a 'minimum 2 feet personal space person'), I  found my own culture somewhat cold, distant and at times even rude.  

Does this mean that they all just love each other and are all warm and friendly? No, this can also be done 'politely', but is a cultural norm with consequences.  Just watch a group discuss the one who forgot to greet. I have come to love it and found sliding back into this custom very easy.  I believe it is Biblical: "Greet one another with a holy kiss."  


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