Say hello with a kiss

I grew up in a culture where greetings involve saying, “Hello.” If you’re friendly, you can shake someone’s hand. If you know someone really well, you might even give them a hug. But let’s not get crazy.

I now find myself in a place where you kiss everybody. Is that your friend walking this way? Go on, greet them with a kiss on the cheek. See that pretty girl across the street? Go introduce yourself and give her a kiss. Look, it’s a friend of a friend whom you’ve never met but you know by association—go kiss them.

The Latin American culture is beyond friendly. In North America, we might invite you over for dinner, but that’s where the love ends. The meal has been served. Please get in your car and go home now. On this side of the equator, you may be invited over for dinner. And then you’ll drink and play games until the early morning hours. And then you’ll be asked to spend the night. And then you’ll be offered breakfast when you awake. And that’s just the beginning.

Families here are eager to adopt you as their long-lost son or daughter. It’s a beautiful acceptance. I’m finding it difficult to accept this level of kindness because I’m not used to it. My current Couchsurfing host told me she was offended when I didn’t offer her a kiss on the cheek before going to bed. And another one when we awoke.

I’m learning to be a little more open and friendly. To all of my male friends back home: Please don’t smack me if I start kissing you on the cheek when I return. It’s just my new way of saying, “Hello.”