Argentinians, like their Italian and Spanish ancestors, are a touchy feely bunch. That personal space bubble you have in your home country (that is, if you are from the U.S., Germany, or England), will be popped the second you touch ground in Argentina.
“Wait, so, I’m supposed to kiss everyone?” a new student studying at Spanish in Rosario asked me, with a sort of disgusted look on her face.
“Yes, everyone,” I replied.
The Argentinian kiss hello is an etiquette minefield for most foreign visitors. It’s a new boundary of dry lips and hairy cheeks, a war zone of saliva and mate breath and the epitome of social awkwardness for foreigners. It can be a daunting task, but when in Argentina, do as the Argentinians do- or you’ll be looked at as socially awkward or worse, mala onda.
By everyone, I don’t mean everrrrrryyyyone. For example, I probably wouldn’t greet the cashier at the supermarket with a kiss, or the banker, or my neighbor on the 7th floor.
So who do you kiss then?
Ladies greet both men and women with a kiss- friends, family, and anyone that is introduced to them.
Men will typically greet ladies with a kiss (family, friends, or new introductions) however, they greet other men with a handshake. Often times, you’ll see men greet other men with a kiss too, this happens only when they are good friends.
Sounds simple enough right? Wrong. It isn’t just a simple kiss on the cheek there is a bit of a science to it.
So how does it work? Right cheek to right cheek, then, when your cheeks are touching you make a ‘muah’ sound. The ‘muah’ sound is key. Touching right cheek to right cheek and not making the ‘muah’ sound is like shaking a limp hand. Trust me, make the ‘muah’ sound!
Ok, now that we have that out of the way, let’s go back to when it is customary to do so.
Every time you arrive and leave a party! Yes, this means you might spend 10 minutes pressing your cheek against a room full of strangers’ cheeks only to do so again an hour later. You do the math and think “20 kisses in an hour, no way” and instead you slip out with a sort of general hand waving chau to everyone in the room. You will be talked about and labeled as “cold” or “unfriendly”. They will look at each other in a rather bewildered sort of way and ponder whether or not they did something to rub you the wrong way. So take my advice and just get used to the affectionate nature of these warm human beings and get your kiss on!
Written by Vanessa Galban
ESL teacher at English in Rosario