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Complicated Cross Cultural Greetings

Quick link: To Kiss or Not to Kiss?

Today EthnoTraveler published my essay about kissing men, women, cheeks, lips, hands, children…

It can be really hard to know how to greet people, especially in a hugely diverse environment. I once counted at church and out of less than thirty people, there were twelve countries represented, each with their own slightly nuanced ways of greeting each other. This can be intimidating, embarrassing, awkward, hilarious, and friendship-forming.


I’m at a dinner party. A person approaches, their face smiling, their cheeks shimmering with a thin sheen of Djibouti sweat. The face gets closer, closer, closer. It is almost touching mine now, looming, damp, expectant. I have less than two seconds to process several things: gender, nationality, age, religion, and urban vs. rural. I have to process these things in order to respond appropriately and prepare for potential outcomes.

Click here to read more about greetings and about the times I’ve shard juicy smacker-oos with elderly women: To Kiss or Not to Kiss?

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