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decoding the kiss

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I still haven't figured out the whole kissing thing - on the cheek as a greeting, mind you. In Morocco it was at least total of four, two on each cheek, and in rural Berber areas you kissed your own hand (like blowing a kiss at someone) as well. Here in Lyon, sometimes you kiss and sometimes you don't. Sometimes it's one on each cheek, sometimes it's a total of three. Sometimes you just shake hands. Or, if you're confused like I am, you extend your hand and lean forward for a kiss.

Last night one of my office mates invited me over for dinner. I really enjoyed a glimpse of family life in France. C. and A. are a young professional couple with an adorable two year old son and another on the way. C. is my colleague and A. works for a company that produces lab equipment. They just bought a house and they'll be moving in May - more space for everyone. I was surprised when C. referred to A. as her boyfriend. It turns out that they are not married but have a legal partnership status. In the end it doesn't seem to make a difference except for the name. We sat in the kitchen and just talked and talked, about everything from Desperate Housewives to life in Africa. A.'s father is obsessed with geneology so I made my minimum missionary effort by sending info this morning on the family history center in Lyon.

I was thinking afterwards too that it's really only during my third visit to Lyon, and during my longest stay so far, that I've been getting so many invitations. Maybe because people have gotten to know me better? Or maybe because the reflex to invite people over is automatic for Americans and not for everyone else?


I snuck away to visit Monoprix, the French equivalent of Target, and was slightly traumatized by the sight of beautifully dressed elderly French women closely examining sexy lingerie. I guess it's true then French women don't get fat and do get lucky.
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On March 12th, 2008 03:17 pm (UTC), nausica2 commented:
Here we do two kisses, one on each cheek. For formal work stuff, we shake hands.

And yes, we only invite people home when we trust them. But, if you get invited once, it means that you get a lot of trust, and it's for real. Here we've always found Americans very forward in this.
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On March 12th, 2008 03:25 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
And yet, no hugs here! :)

It's true that Americans are very much "insta-friends." We also smile too much, apparently.
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On March 12th, 2008 04:46 pm (UTC), nausica2 replied:
No, we don't do hugs here either. That's for the Brits and the Americans. ;)

It's true that Americans are very much "insta-friends." We also smile too much, apparently.

Oh yes. It's not that we don't smile, but... different.

I guess it's the same about service. It may sound weird, but I find table service in the US very annoying. Asking questions, coming every 5 minutes... too much!
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On March 12th, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
Brits hug?!

I agree about the service - I'm sure the pressure for big tips is intense.
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On March 16th, 2008 09:54 am (UTC), hatter_anon replied:
None of the Brits that I met did. I liked the Spanish version, consistently a kiss on each cheek for hello, goodbye, and anything else you might like to express.

I remember a lovely interview I did with a Chilean woman about her migration experience. She came to Australia in the '60s and said years later that she found it very hard at first because no one hugged and she liked to hug all her friends. When I interviewed her she said she was very glad that Australians have changed and she can hug all her friends as much as she likes now, and even complete strangers when she meets them!
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On March 16th, 2008 10:47 am (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
I can imagine!
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