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My First Guy Kiss

By SammyK on Wed, Nov 19th 08 at 08:26PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Now there's a title that will freak my dad out.

I love it when I encounter something about a culture that absolutely takes me by surprise. The type of cultural thing that hits me like a ton of bricks. One that no one had ever told me about or that I had read about. Just total surprise and I'm left there trying to figure out what just happened.

Well I had such an experience the other day when hanging out with a cool group of Argentineans.

Thanks to Couch Surfing, I had been in Comodoro Riviadiva, Argentina for a matter of hours before I was instantly integrated into the culture and was having sandwiches with a strong group of friends in their house.

At first, I was pretty quiet because I'm still getting used to the Argentinean Spanish accent (which is really thick to my ears). So most of what they were saying was pretty incomprehensible.

But they started asking me questions and after asking them to repeat everything they said, we started up a conversation. It was a good conversation too - not a bunch of superficial crap, but real conversation. I felt like I really got to know them.

The group of friends was so similar to my friends in the States. Well, at least they hung out the same way. We were just chatting it up at someone's house with some food. One girl reminded me of Ashlee because she kept tripping over stuff and knocking over glasses, but she was an awesome host and made sure everyone was taken care of - just like Ashlee does.

I told her that she reminded me of a friend back at home because of how she was acting and she said, "Why, because I'm always knocking over stuff?" I don't know how she guessed.

Her boyfriend Paul was tall and skinny and wasn't saying much. Just like Ashlee's boyfriend Matt! I love you Matt. ;) He eventually started speaking up when I began asking questions about how to say certain things in Spanish.

We talked for a long time and time flew by. We started heading back home around 3AM. All five of us packed into a little two-door car and they dropped me and Tamara off at my Couch Surfing host home.

I went up to Paul to say goodbye the typical "good friend guy-to-guy" way. You know what I'm talking about - the whole, grab your hand to start a handshake and bring it in for a hug while still gripping the hand.

When I went in for the hug part, the dude kissed me on the cheek! I was like "WTF!?" (I just thought that, I didn't say it. And even if I had said it, he wouldn't have understood it anyways.)

I was caught completely off-gaurd. This dude just kissed me on my cheek. I could feel his stubbly beard on my face and everything. [Shutters.] Something about that just doesn't feel right at all.

I thought that maybe he was confused and he assumed that that was part of my culture or something and he was just trying to make me feel at home. I was trying to think of some valid reason - any valid reason why a dude would want to kiss another dude on the cheek like a woman.

After they all left, I asked Tamara if it was normal for guys to kiss each other's cheek and she said that was normal around here. I'm just glad that it's not normal to kiss on the mouth.

It may be normal around here, but I sure ain't going to volunteer for it.


jamie wrote on November 19th 08 at 08:38PM
We lived in England for 2 years, and NEVER got used to the double cheek kiss (apparently it's worse in France, where they go for a triple).

In some countries (too lazy to look up which ones) men who are friends walk around holding hands. You might want to watch out for that too.
Ryan wrote on November 19th 08 at 09:02PM
Anything unexpected usually freaks people out.
Shawn Needham wrote on November 19th 08 at 10:44PM
In the Arab world I received the goodbye kiss several times after getting to know someone from men. Of course, from a guy it is weird at first, although how did America become so anal about human closeness.

I have had, also, several western girls kiss me on each cheek, mostly from Italy and France. I like that cultural aspect. I feel Americans should give up their space issue concerning greeting and goodbye kisses.
Anil wrote on November 20th 08 at 05:32AM
Pretty common in Turkey as well, no big deal. It's completely non-sexual.
Dad Powers wrote on November 20th 08 at 02:34PM
Hey Sam, the Bible says greet each other with a holy kiss, as we talked about this around the table when you and MAG were home, it was to break down social barriers So it sounds like you are doing a good job of showing people who you are and how special you are. Good job son!
ps I stopped freaking out after lunch
SammyK wrote on November 21st 08 at 10:34AM
@Shawn Needham: I agree, it sucks that so many places in the States, the culture is so homophobic that it feels weird to be greeted in a very friendly and non-sexual way.

@Dad Powers: haha - thanks dad. Yeah, the first two times were super awkward. But now that I'm anticipating it and I know that the guy is not trying to come onto me, I've gotten used to it already.
Ashlee wrote on November 25th 08 at 10:13PM
Michael wrote on November 29th 08 at 08:05AM
I am surprised that you were shocked to get a kiss on the cheek...... Come's only on the cheek!

I know that some Americans are really religious and homophobic, thus making them a bit too UP TIGHT about living life like it should be lived. It's all about appreciating people around you.

When I lived in Tunisia, me and my Tunisian friends were holding hands when walking in town. And when meeting and departing, 3 kisses on the cheeks was normal. Nothing homophobic about this at's just paying respect and saying that you appreciate the other person.

Are you a religious person Sammy?
SammyK wrote on November 29th 08 at 02:29PM
@Michael: I don't know what culture you grew up in, but in my part of the States, we have this unspoken "5-feet" rule. We need 5-feet of personal space at all times. I started to lose it after spending a lot of time in central America.

I disagree with your argument that religious people are inherently homophobic. There are lots of religious people who are not homophobic and there are lots of homophobic people who are not religious. In fact "religious Christians" are commanded to greet each other with a holy kiss in the Bible (as my dad commented above).

I would argue that the awkwardness of the kiss came from my personal space feeling violated because of the culture I grew up in. That doesn't mean that that aspect of my culture is right, but it definitely threw me off.

But now I really like the kiss as a greeting for both genders - it's really such a wonderful greeting!
Daria wrote on July 16th 09 at 09:45PM
Hey! First of all, congratulations on your blog. It´s so cool to see that there are people who are as crazy about traveling as I am. Second, I live in Argentina and everybody kisses evrybody here. I also find it strange, especially when you don´t really know the person. Argentinians are also unfamiliar with the personal space concept. I hate that and I grew up here. But it´s not something they control. I try to, especially with foreigners, but most don´t really pay attention to what they do and whether it shocks the other person or not. Though now it´s less common with the whole flu thing.
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