Traditions Field Note

Abstract:

Kisses upon kisses upon kisses, and I don’t mean the Hershey’s chocolate treat. Come learn about how people use kisses in Venezuela!

What traditions does the community have?

When was the last time you kissed someone to greet them? Mine was earlier this afternoon at school. One of the everyday traditions that Venezuelans have is to kiss each other on the cheek to say “hello” or to say “goodbye”.

 However, this isn’t always the case for me. Usually in Venezuela, if I am meeting a Venezuelan for the first time, they offer me their hand and we shake hands. I’m not sure if this is because I am from the United States and they know that we don’t have the custom to kiss each other when we meet someone new or if they actually don’t do it in that particular social setting.

Normally, when I leave my house and say goodbye to my Venezuelan mom, I kiss her on the cheek goodbye and when I come home I kiss her on the cheek to greet her. I also meet my friends with a greeting kiss. In the beginning I was terrified to make a mistake and accidentally kiss someone on the lips. Can you imagine that? That would be embarrassing! However, I’ve learned that it isn’t that hard or scary.

What traditions did I learn about?

Alright, are you ready for some kissing lessons and tips? If you ever find yourself in Venezuela these are important hints! First, there are some basic rules. If you are a boy greeting another boy, you will never kiss each other on the cheek. However, you will “slap hands and then pound it”. That’s a special type of handshake that includes making fists and then bumping them together. Girls greet other girls with kisses on the cheek and boys and girls greet each other with kisses on the cheek.

Second, always aim for the right cheek, meaning your head goes left. If everyone aims for the right cheek everything goes smoothly because you will kiss their right cheek and they will kiss your right cheek.

 

Third, don’t slobber! The kiss is more of a peck on the cheek or into the air right by the cheek. No one will mind if you don’t actually make direct contact. You can verbally greet people immediately before or after you kiss them, however don’t try and multitask and do it at the same time. It will only lead to an awkward hug. However, always hug someone after you kiss them, if you know them well enough to hug them.

Lastly and most importantly, always kiss your friends and family when you arrive somewhere and before you say goodbye. If you forget to say goodbye and give them a kiss, they will think something is wrong or that you are rude.

One more important thing to remember is to always identify who are you greeting. Once, I was talking to my host cousin and a gave him a hug and a kiss on a cheek to say hello. He was next to an older man and I thought that he was perhaps my host grandpa that I hadn’t met yet. I greeted him with a hug and a kiss. He was just a stranger, a construction worker actually, and my host mom saw the whole thing. They still tease me about it!

Why does the community have this tradition?

Venezuela has this tradition like many other countries in Latin America. This tradition has become a huge part of their society because they are a very friendly, warm group of people. Venezuela is a culture that doesn’t really believe in personal space like we do in the United States and they are comforted by physical contact.

A kiss on the cheek for them is a necessary form of contact to let people know they have a good relationship. Can you imagine if you had to personally say hello to everyone, everyday? It takes a while, but you feel good afterwards. What would you think if someone walked up to you, introduced themselves and gave you a kiss on the cheek? What would you think if the person sitting next to you, walked up to you to say “hi” and gave you a kiss on the cheek?

Is this tradition connected to its environment? How?

This tradition has no connection to the environment, however it is commonly found in more tropical countries. My opinion is that it’s related to how people in society view personal connections. I notice that here is more open and friendly and that the United States is more closed off to strangers.

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