The admissions staff at Expanish demonstrate the “awkward moment” and how to do it with style!
The European influence in Argentina is widespread, from the small cafés serving espresso coffee on every street corner to the French architecture at the central bus station. One of the most interesting customs borrowed from Europe is the cheek-to-cheek kiss to say hello (“saludar” in Spanish) and to say goodbye (“despedir”). Unlike the two-peck French version, it is single kiss traditionally with the left cheek. This can be from meeting someone for the first time or even just seeing your best friend on the subway. Surprisingly, this is a relatively new
tradition in the country, and some people (especially older men) choose not to participate.
This leads to the common problem faced by foreigners who are studying Spanish in Argentina:
When should one “saludar”?
This is important because an unwelcome attempt to kiss someone on the cheek can lead to an awkward dance that looks mildly like chickens mating. It involves the initial kiss attempt, a sudden hesitation, a back-and-forth movement, and can end with an uncomfortable hug/embrace. Although this is not a serious offense culture-wise, it can start the first interaction with someone on an odd note.
A good general rule: Follow the Leader
If someone you just meet goes in for the kiss, then it is okay to act and kiss back. Avoid “going in for the kill” without the initial movement of the other. This will mean more successful interactions with Argentines and after a couple of months you will be doing it like a professional. You might even continue the cheek-to-cheek kiss in your home country and start a trend.
To find out more about learning Spanish and culture in Buenos Aires check out our website at Expanish