05 February 2010
I have been neglecting my endeavor to convey very small details concerning life here because, to tell you the truth and to my amazement, I am coming to take many of these details for granted. One detail concerning every day life that I thought I would never become accustomed to, but have almost, is the embrace.
I speak here of the embrace upon meeting an acquaintance and upon saying goodbye to an acquaintance.
Upon meeting a man or a woman for the first time, the usual handshake is all that is expected of course. Thereafter, upon encountering a woman again, it is obligatory that one give her a light embrace and kiss her on the cheek. Not both cheeks as the French do. One cheek.
I have settled on opting for the lady's right cheek every time. I believe this to be acceptable because it seems to go smoothly with Mexican women. American women often display a bit of hesitation not knowing which cheek you are going to go for. Again, this is absolutely necessary both with hellos and with goodbyes to a previous acquaintance. It is usually a matter of good form with goodbye even if it is the first time you have met the woman.
It has taken me a bit longer to be at ease embracing men, because, to tell you the truth, a proper embrace of another man properly done requires a real bear hug, although usually it is best not to linger too long unless you are really close pals. Again, both with hello and with goodbye.
If you do not do this—and I say this without exaggeration—you are conveying to that person that in truth you do not care much for their acquaintance. And as I have said, I am very close to the point where I take this for granted now. Very close.
I may be overstating the case a bit regarding men. There is certainly a protestation of friendship involved in the embrace of a man, and I am not everyone's friend. That is not in my personality. However, let us put it this way. I have certainly embraced a lot of men whom I did not know very well.
Furthermore, I do not believe that what I have described here necessarily holds true for business acquaintances, but I have had no need to get the hang of that.