One of the first lessons you learn when you arrive in a new country is how they greet each other. Sometimes it’s a handshake, a pat on the back, a hug, a kiss or a combination of any of these gestures. It’s cultural adaption 101.
Here in Costa Rica, the standard greeting between friends is to lean in and go right cheek to right cheek. Then you air kiss by the ear and pat the left shoulder at the same time. Then if you’re close friends or family you also follow up the kiss with a warm hug. You would think for a Minnesotan like me it would be a difficult adjustment to make to learn to kiss everyone, but it really wasn’t that hard to get into the kissing mode. Everyone was doing it, so it quickly became natural!
So the other night I had a really funny moment. Our best friends Chino and Marcela, who we consider our Costa Rican family, live not very far from us. So my husband had invited Chino to go play softball with “the guys”. Chino came over a little early and spent a few hours playing X-box with my son and husband. I arrived home later to a living room full of cheering male voices, a happy scene in our home.
When it came time to leave, my husband came over and kissed me good-bye and told me they would be home late. My son came over and kissed me on the cheek, “bye Mom.” Next in line was Chino! I gave him the usual cheek-to-cheek air kiss with a hug and told him to have a good time.
When they all left I chuckled to myself thinking about how “normal” that strange scene seemed to me in the moment. My husband, my son and my friend all lined up for a kiss before they go off to play. All I can say is that I am sure to freak out some of our Minnesotan friends if I try that back home. Cultural adjustment does weird things to you.