Thursday, March 25, 2010


My thoughts are on the tradition of doing besos in Chile are complicated. (besos are when you say hello or goodbye and you do a quick "kiss" on one cheek, almost always on the right cheek unless especially inconvenient or you are meeting my boyfriend's brother's girlfriend, who nearly planted me a big one on the lips this week because she insisted on going for the opposite cheek for no reason- awkward).

Anyway, besos took some getting used to, and there are still moments when I'd be much more content to just keep my personal space without offending anyone in the process. Not to mention I find it tedious and ridiculous in situations like a party, etc... and you're obligated to walk around robotically doing besos to dozens of people you hardly talked to.

One thing I find really interesting, however, is that I never personally observed many people doing besos in the US, yet on American TV programs and reality shows, its a fairly common sight. Is it a California thing? Is it a 30s thing? I can't quite figure out how my personal recollection and tv image two differ so much, and why one of them might be skewed slightly depending on where I lived, age, trend, etc... Many of my English students are shocked to hear that's not a traditional or necessary part of most greetings in the U.S. and say television makes it appear that it is indeed an American thing as well.

However, despite my moody opinion about the action, its a different story considering teaching toddlers the custom, when you have little munchkins giving you big slobbery smooches on your cheek - Absolutely adorable!


  1. Haha all my students seem to know that North Americans don't do the beso. There is a unit on greetings in one of the books I use, and when I if we give besos in the US as a greeting, everyone always emphatically says "NO!" and says "Just a handshake." (Which then I obviously go onto explain the difference between greeting a friend vs. colleague, etc, and that we do indeed give hugs and we're not the coldest nation of people on Earth)

    I have mixed feelings about the beso too, but mostly positive. When I got back home I find it (not to sound stereotypical) cold to just shake hands or maybe not even make physical contact when greeting someone.

  2. Most of my business students know because they do that same activity over and over with the handshake stuff.. but i've found a lot of people to have not really thought about it in a personal sense, or be a little confused because when you watch TV from the US like the sitcom stuff they actually do besos a lot!

    I think its usually fine among friends but there are cases when im not a big fan and i find it award or tedious. In the US i get the same feeling, but usually with the type of person i probably wouldnt' especially want to do besos with either (i.e. my good friends i'd still give a hug and such, but like... a friends dad, a neighbor, a friend of a friend... yeah it feels awkward cuz you just stant there without any sort of contact...yet, also could be people who i'm not dying to have contact with. its just the custom of nothing now seems odd)

  3. Shortly after I brought my Chilean wife and daughter to the US from Santiago 11 years ago, I took my daughter to her first day of kindergarten. Upon meeting her teacher, she instinctively gave her a kiss on the cheek, as the school children do in Chile. My little girl immediately became the teacher's favorite and received a big hug from her every day for weeks after that; like the song says, 'todo por un beso' (all because of a kiss).

  4. Ralph that is adorable! Did she keep up the habit?
    I almost accidentally tried to do 'besos' with a number of people on accident last time I was visiting in the US. Luckily they backed up before I had to explain my lapse in remembering the cultural difference!

  5. I had the doing besos in the US problem last time I was back, too! It's somewhat automatic for me now.

    P.s. For the last few weeks, whenever I was on google reader I would wonder why you hadn't been posting! I just found your new site now.