To Hug, or Not to Hug, That is the Question.

I need to teach my family how to hug.

We are a Canadian family with an Eastern European background.  We hug when necessary…we hug “hello” and “good-bye” when we don’t see the person often, and we hug….hmmm???…well, it’s not an everyday occasion.  So, I think my family might be a bit overwhelmed come December, when they meet Armando’s family.  Why?

Latinos like to hug.  They hug every time they see you and they hug every time they leave you.  If you see them more than once in a day, it doesn’t matter.  Hug. Hug. Hug. Hug.  And, you can’t forget the kiss.  One cheek-kiss. Not two. But not really a kiss either.  You touch cheeks and kiss the air, usually.  Girls cheek-kiss girls with the hug.  Guys cheek- kiss girls with the hug and depending on where in Latin America that you are, Guys will cheek-kiss guys as well.  In Mexico, guys will only cheek-kiss guys that are their immediate family.  Otherwise, it is a handshake that then turns into a hug and a back pat.  I know,  I know.  Confusing.

Many a funny stories I’ve heard from Latino friends when they’ve forgotten cultural differences and have gone in for the hug when it wasn’t expected by the other party.  I had an incident where I was on the receiving end of one of those hugs but it wasn’t due to a cultural difference but a state of confusion.  I was celebrating New Year’s Eve in Veracruz, Mexico with Armando and his brothers and dad.  When the clock struck midnight we ate our grapes (Mexican tradition:  everyone eats 12 grapes at midnight, one for each strike, and you make a wish with each grape you eat) and then we went out onto the street to watch the festivities.  Armando’s mom called us to wish everyone a Happy New Year at that moment, and as the cell phone was being passed to everyone, it finally reached me.  As I said “Hola, Feliz Años!!”, a short, little lady walked passed me and reached up to me giving me a big hug.  As I leaned down and returned the hug, I thought, “Oh I guess everyone hugs everyone here on New Year’s.  Makes sense, because they like to hug.”  But no, it was soon realized that when I said “Hello, Happy New Year’s” in Spanish to Armando’s mom, the lady walking by thought I was speaking to her because she didn’t see me holding the cell phone.  When the confusion was realized, what did the lady do?  No, she didn’t walk away embarrassed, she chose to give EVERYONE a hug instead!!  Good laughs were had!

So as I make my family and friends aware of the Latino hugs and kisses and as Armando’s family and friends get versed on the Canadian ways of greeting, we should hopefully meet in the middle somewhere.  And if not, the cultural blunders should give us some good laughs. Laughing out loud

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