I’ve lived in a lot of corners of the country. Born in California, a brief stint in Texas, a large chunk of my life in the Midwest, a year in Brooklyn, and now settled in Long Island, I feel like I have experienced a lot of the different cultures you find in America.
One of the most interesting parts of living in different places (at least to me) is seeing the quirks of the people raised there. Especially when it comes to their level of human contact.
In the Midwest, people don’t really touch. I mean, sure, you get handshakes and high fives and you hug people you know really well, but for the most part, your standard greeting is sans contact.
So one of the biggest things I had to get used to when I started spending more time in Long Island was not something you might expect: kissing.
No, I’m not saying every new person you meet will expect to engaged in a little tonsel hockey, but you are expected to kiss hello.
(Anyone else remember Jerry’s aversion to the kiss hello?)
I recently had my cousins from Ohio to visit, and it was kind of funny to watch them react to people leaning in for a quick smooch.
My advice was basically to react to cues from the other person. If they lean in, cheek first, they’re probably expecting a kiss hello or goodbye. The only time it’s ever awkward is if you both go for the opposite cheek, and then you end up doing that weird chicken bob trying to figure out which direction to turn your head. I’ve never accidentally kissed someone on the mouth in an attempt at a cheek kiss, but I’m sure it has happened.
Personally, I think it’s kind of a nice custom. It reminds me of high school when I had a French foreign exchange student come to stay with me and the group always did les bises, or kisses when they wanted to say hello or goodbye to their friends. But I can also see how it would be uncomfortable if you’re more of a big-wave-hello kind of person.
What about you? Are people touchy-feely in your area? Or do you keep your distance? Anyone have a good accidental kiss story to share?