All of the above… we’re Mexican! After finding some articles offering a list of social graces and rules of social etiquette in Mexico, I realized we do have this sort of tacit code when it comes to the meet and greetdynamic in our culture. However, I don’t believe we need to become the embodiment of sophistication, as some of those rules suggest, to come across as we really want to.
In Mexico we can be a little too polite for the American standards. It is common to refer to people differently depending on the context. Sometimes we use the formal form “usted” when dealing with people we don’t know or to show respect, instead of “tú” which we use with friends and informal situations. In a work environment, a person is often addressed by their professional title, such as “Licenciado” (e.g. Lawyer, BA and BSc), Engineer, Doctor, etc.
We also like to get physical, so the affection showing may vary depending on the situation and/or the closeness of the relationship. A handshake can’t go wrong for a first introduction. It is formal and simple. If you don’t know the person, if it’s a business meeting or if you just don’t feel comfortable enough to get closer, handshake is the safest choice. Comfort is probably the key. I was reading this girl’s blog telling her experience in Mexico and she said she would kiss everyone at the slightest attempt of leaning, leading to many awkward moments like when that guy was just trying to tell her something and she kissed him out of the blue instead.
The kiss is a tricky one. I guess you can say you kiss among friends and family, but sometimes it can be extended to friends of friends and family of family… I’m thinking on a party, for example. I kiss everyone they introduce me to. I kissed friends at school and friends at the office twice a day, one kiss hello and one kiss good-bye. If you’re a celebrity at work like my mother, you could be kissing an average of 50 people on a regular day. Don’t worry about the swine flu, the kiss doesn’t need your lips to make contact with the kissed entity really, it’s more like a cheek to cheek air kiss type.
The best gesture is the one that comes genuinely. No greeting formality can top that. I am a hugger, for example. More than a cultural thing, I guess it’s just personal style. I remember at the Literacy Council, it was one of the volunteer’s birthday and that’s pretty much all I needed to know about the lady to jump and give her a hug. The intern working that summer shook her hand instead explaining she didn’t like to hug or be hugged because of the invasion of personal space. Fair enough. Fascinating concept when you come from a city with a population density of 5,900 souls per square kilometer.