Argentina Culture: How to Greet a Porteño

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For many foreigners, and especially English speakers, one of the more difficult things to adjust to is the Argentine way of greeting. By Argentine greeting, I mean giving a kiss. In Argentina, when you greet someone or say goodbye to them, you give each other one kiss on the cheek. This sounds pretty basic, but opens up a lot of uncertainty. Who do you kiss and who don´t you kiss? Only women? Teachers? Bosses? A friend of a friend? A friend´s parents? The answer to these questions is different for each country that kisses upon greeting, which makes this confusing and very uncomfortable for many people. Read on, and I´ll clear things up for you about how it´s done in Argentina.

First of all, let me explain how you kiss someone when you are greeting them (or saying goodbye). Here in Argentina, you touch your right cheek to their right cheek, and make a kissing sound. Done. If it is someone that you are really close to, such as a good friend or family member, you may actually kiss their right cheek with your lips. It is up to you.

In Argentina, it is usually just a kiss and not a hug, unless you haven´t seen the person for a long time, at which time you may do both. So what do you do with your hands? The most common would be to put your right hand on their right shoulder, and leave your left hand by your side, but you can do whatever you want.

Do men kiss to greet each other?
Absolutely. Although it is more acceptable to shake a man´s hand than a woman´s, it is common for male friends and co-workers to greet with a kiss. The kiss is done the same way, cheek to cheek.

Do you kiss when you meet someone for the first time?
If it is a girl, then you should always give them a kiss. If it is a guy being introduced to you by another friend, and you are a guy, you can do either or. Sometimes an Argentine will shake your hand, sometimes they will give you a kiss. The easiest thing to do is let them make the first move.; however, giving a kiss is safer, and will never be considered wrong. If you see them a second time, it is better to greet them with a kiss. If it is just a random guy, then you would just shake hands.

Do you kiss your roommates when you leave, and again when you come back? How about in the morning?

Argentines tend to kiss more than most Latin cultures, and if you are living with them, expect to kiss when leaving, when coming back, in the morning, and at night. Try to follow their lead, but this is likely how it will be.

Your teacher?
This depends on what type of teacher. For school or university, this is not all that common, although it always depends. Some may greet their teachers with a kiss if they are very close. For other types of teachers, such as a Spanish teacher, Yoga teacher, Tennis teacher, whoever, it is common to greet and say goodbye with a kiss, though you don´t have to. If you are an English teacher, all of your students will often come and kiss you, especially after the class, even if you are male and they are male.

You boss and co-workers?
This varies a lot depending on the company you work for, whether it is small or big, and whether it is formal or informal. When you first meet them, you usually shake hands. Afterwards, it is not uncommon to greet your boss with a kiss, especially if it is a boss that you spend the whole day with. The same goes for co-workers. It is common to greet and say good-bye with a kiss, but is not always necessary.

You’re going for an interview, do you kiss the interviewer?
This would depend. Let them make the first move, because it could go either way. If they are female, expect a kiss, though they may shake hands. If they are male, and you are female, it could be either. If they are male, and you are male, they will most likely shake your hand.

Meeting someone´s family?
This can be tricky. If you are a girl, it´s easy; you would greet everyone with a kiss. If you are male, you would greet older males (think fathers and grandfathers) by shaking their hand. Younger males, females, and kids you would greet with a kiss.

There are no black and white rules, so until you start to feel comfortable, try to let the other person make the first move. In most cases, if you make a mistake, they will understand you are from a different culture and will not take offense. It is likely that at some point, you will go to shake someone´s hand, and they will go to kiss you, or vice versa. This is common, and nothing to worry about. Try to learn the Latin style greeting, it is a very warm way to greet people, and is really nice once you get used to it.

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10 Comments

  1. maggie says:

    this was an amazing website, it helped me sooo much for my report!!!

  2. Sebastian says:

    This is true in BA. In other cities, man-man kisses and greeting are less common. The rest of us, wolud expect a hand shake.

  3. mark verma says:

    Hi Great Post. YOu should wright more post on same topic.

  4. Anthony Tucker says:

    I started teaching at the Hospital Alemán (German Hospital)here in BA, the first few lessons were O.K 8 or nine kisses were fine. Then suddenly as I introduced the topic of my expertise “Epidemiology” over 80 medical professionals turned up. And as the lecture started and ended the kissing started, I had no idea what to do, did I bring enough sterilwipes, should I run as fast as I could to the prep room and sterilize my face? What kind of Surgery had that Guy done before he started rubbing his cheek against mine…The thoughts started to get worse.

    One of the things I love about teaching here is that after a lecture students are very keen to linger and discuss a topic, unlike other universities I’v lectured at as soon as you finish the auditorium is empty. I also love all the kissing…have I flipped…Perhaps.. There is something intimate about it and yet it’s non sexual. I feel privileged for the intimacy of touching the cheeks of my neighbor when we encounter during the day, rather than the distant nod or no greeting from my neighbor back in Boston.
    I dread the thought of returning to North America in a few months when all that hand shaking will start again. I hate to think if where all those hands have been before they got a grip of mine.
    Please……. a cheek/buccae would be so much more hygienic, it could never get to all the places your fingers can.
    My next theses will be about the advantages of Kissing over hand shaking O.K. you can all tell me that, but now the proof? from an Epidemiological point of view?

    cheers
    Tony

    (Besos for your Blog)

  5. DiegoMalingo says:

    Hi tony, thanks for sharing, great comment. I love the idea for your new thesis….I’d be interested in reading it 😛 I have also become accustomed to the kissing, and shaking hands definitely feels akward when you are no longer used to it. Enjoy the rest of your stay here.

    – Matt

  6. Ashley says:

    I love the kissing. Greetings can be really awkward in the UK – handshakes, a hug, a nod, a “hello”…a veritable minefield of potential social faux pas.
    Here, it is just so easy and friendly.

  7. Daniel says:

    I’ll recomend never ever ever kiss an interviewer no matter if you are man or woman.
    The rest you got it perfect!

    For all: Expect to make mistakes in this situations!!! probably you’ll end up doing a kind of shake hand/kiss until you know the person you are greeting.

    Embrace the kissing culture!!

  8. Matt says:

    Thanks for the comment, though I think whether you should greet the the interviewer with a kiss is hard to know. Always let them make the first move. I have never been greeted by a man interviewer with a kiss, it’s always a handshake. However, women interviewers have always greeted me with a kiss. It probably depends a lot on the type of company.

    – Matt

  9. Laura says:

    !!!!!!!!!!!!! Love this post!!! I’m from Argentina, and it was really fun reading someone else’s point of view about something so common for us! =D And about kissing the interviewer, it depends on the type of company as Matt said! Besosss!!!

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