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Lip Service: Kissing Etiquette in Argentina

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The Argentine kiss hello is an etiquette minefield for many a foreign visitor; an explosive expanse of dry lips and hairy cheeks, a bomb-strewn war zone of saliva and bad breath, a nuclear holocaust of social awkwardness and previously repressed homoeroticism. But not anymore. Intrepid reporter Daniel Tunnard spent ten minutes at his desk compiling lazy stereotypes into an unimaginative list many months infiltrating that most mysterious of beasts, the modern Argentine, to bring you this definitive guide to kissing with confidence.

(Hey! You can read this in Spanish too!)

Photo courtesy of Walt Stoneburner

Photo courtesy of Walt Stoneburner

There are 1112 ways to kiss hello in Argentina, to wit:

1. The stuck-up porteña. She’s already twisted her mouth over her left cheek as she leans in to you. She’s secretly saying ‘I wish to avoid as much contact with you as is socially acceptable’. She doesn’t like your type, and she doesn’t care if you know it. She kisses the air.

2. The timid short woman. She’s not used to such wanton displays of affection, having been ignored by her own parents from the age of seven. She measures 4 foot 10 in heels and it’s enough effort already to reach your cheek. You end up barely brushing her cheek, and are sorely tempted to pat her on the head as your timid paths part.

3. The recently-arrived European/American. He or she took a few weeks to get used to all this kissing lark, but is now making up for it by effusively kissing everyone he or she meets: the doorman, the dentist, the bus driver.

4. The non-Argentine South American. Not in the habit of kissing strangers, and has no intention of starting with these fucking porteños. You give her an unreturned peck on the cheek and fear you have somehow violated her.

5. The jezebel. Her lips linger on your cheek a nanosecond longer than usual while her free hand discreetly strokes a non-intimate part of your body. It’s all so subtle that no one could ever accuse her of foul play. And yet…

6. The grandmother. She’d rather shake your hand, like they used to do back in the 1930s, before the country went down the toilet and everyday greetings turned into a sordid orgy, but she’s too slow in her wheelchair for your looming lips. Her cheek has the same texture as her handbag, and the same temperature, and you later discover both to be entirely empty. Dirty boy.

7. The lonely grandfather. Kisses with such grandfatherly joy at the sight of any company that your lips have no chance of reaching his cheek. You seek the earliest opportunity to wipe the drool off your cheek without him noticing.

8. The man of the same age who you only know from work. Neither of you is sure whether to offer your hand or your cheek. Like an awkward game of rock-paper-scissors, one puts out his hand while the other leans in with his cheek. The result is a handshake-cum-hug of Masonic complexity.

9. The templer. His lips are for his mother, his wife and his children and no one else. He presses his cold temple against yours, unsmiling.

10. Avuncular Mr Moustache. Distantly related to your Argentine spouse, he’s only met you on three previous occasions, but he kisses you as if you were the issue of his own avuncular loins, rubbing your arm and slapping you on the back as he calls you by one of three names: ‘mi chino’; ‘mi negro’; ‘chamigo’. He says you’re getting fatter. You aren’t. He’s getting twattier.

11. The party kiss-hello. On arriving at a party, you spend twenty minutes doing a tour of the room, pressing your cheek against any number of strangers’ and muttering ‘Qué tal, Daniel’ , then failing to speak to any of those people until the end of the party, when you repeat the circle in reverse. You’d complain, but you know you’ve slept with women who you’ve spoken to less.

12. The Parisian wannabe. She lived in Paris for all of two months, plus a weekend in Barcelona, but now insists on kissing everyone on both cheeks, ‘like the Europeans’. Even though she now runs a maxikiosko in Lomas de Zamora.

Taken from ‘Colectivaizeishon, el ingles que tomó todos los colectivos de Buenos Aires’, available from Reservoir Books from September 2013.

You can watch Daniel Tunnard perform stand up on Tuesdays as part of the regular cast of GrinGo.

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- who has written 790 posts on The Argentina Independent.


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2 Responses to “Lip Service: Kissing Etiquette in Argentina”

  1. Oscar G. says:

    When on social gatherings, I force people into an awkward handshake no matter how hard they try to touch my face with their lips. I secretly hope my behavior will eventually subconsciously influence people’s social manners and Argentines and everyone in the world will stop kissing random people for no reason.

    Another problem I have is that a couple of Argentine friends I have get drunk and like to go to the bathroom at a houseparty and try to piss in the same toilet I’m pissing in, at the same time, while telling jokes and playing with their piss streams. Another problem I have is I make wrong choices regarding friends and houseparties.

  2. laurence de mello says:

    hahahah my Porteno(German import ) mother-in-law does the twisting of the face even before meeting the cheek thing, haha you got this down to perfection and I can so identify with the slobbering grandfather (in my case local village pensioners) and the sneaky wiping off the smelly babba with my shoulder yuk!

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