The Misadventures of Interacting (Hello & Goodbye) in Spain

In a country where the double-cheek kiss is a staple for saying hello and goodbye (for girls), you would think it’d be pretty easy and automatic when being introduced to someone and when saying goodbye to someone, but it not always is.  Some people like to surprise you and deviate from this cultural norm, while others, on rare occasions like to do nothing.

ArtWith family, with friends, with people you have just met, there’s not much variation on how people say hello and goodbye.  For guys it’s a handshake and for girls it’s a double-cheek kiss, starting with the left cheek and then going to the right.  Last night, I was at a bar with some friends viewing an art exhibition.  The exhibition was the drawings of nude females in various poses without faces.  At first, I thought they were strange, but after some time I began to appreciate them.  The artist, was Chilean born and now lives in Spain, she was also very beautiful.  I spoke to both her and her husband for a while about various things.

Anyway, at the end of the night, before we left I went to say goodbye to her.  Now, the usual goodbye, especially when you don’t know someone is a double-cheek kiss; so, I kissed on her left check and motioned to go for her right one, however she decided to go for a hug….why?, I don’t know, but this led to me awkwardly moving toward her right cheek while she was moving to hug me; we worth both taken aback by surprise and what seemed like a while, but was probably only milliseconds, we settled back on a quick left-cheek kiss.  This motion isn’t completely abnormal, some people do it, but you never know when and it always comes as a surprise.

Miscommunication doesn’t only happen when saying goodbye to girls, it also happens when saying hello to guys.  A handshake is what 99% of the people do when you meet them.  Every once in a while, I meet someone who decides to go in for the firm interlocking thumbs clasp (the first part of the finger slide into a pound).  Now, I normally do this when greeting my friends; but it always takes me by surprise with strangers and people I’m not really familiar with.

Lastly, Spanish people don’t ever hug and I miss hugs.  Seeing two Spanish people hug would be like seeing someone drive a Fiat in the U.S.  It just doesn’t happen and I miss hugs.


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