“Nice to See You”

How saying hello the Argentine way could make a huge difference

Think of the last time you walked into a room full of people you don’t know. Maybe it was for an important work meeting, a celebration, or perhaps just a casual evening at a friend’s home. Were you comfortable and completely at ease? Or, more likely as not, intimidated by the crowd of unfamiliar faces? Many of us will find ourselves faced with the dilemma: handshake, or awkward “hello”. Is it possible to introduce yourself without it being awkward, for either you or them, or indeed without it coming across as impersonal and distant?

In Argentina, things are different. On entering a room or someone’s home, everyone — whether friend, family member or stranger — is greeted in the same way; with at least one, if not two kisses on the cheek, and (especially in the campo*) with a warm, welcoming smile. With each beso** given, there is an evident delight to see someone, either to continue a friendship or make a new acquaintance. It’s a sign of love and respect for family members and strangers. A sign that you belong to a community, or as a stranger are welcomed into one.

In July, I attended a leaders meeting for a kids club I was volunteering at the following week. Having just arrived back from six weeks in Argentina, it was the first meeting I had been to, and, by the time I arrived, the room was already full of people. I knew no one. My automatic instinct was to follow the Argentine tradition, and make my way around the circle to greet everyone with a kiss on the cheek and introduce myself. I remembered just in time that that ‘isn’t what’s done in the UK’, extracted an awkward “hi” and sat myself on the first empty chair I encountered! In that moment I realised the coldness of not just that situation, but our society.

What kind of a community are we living in?

Imagine a culture where everyone greeted one another with a smile and a kiss. Many other countries in Europe already hold such a tradition, and we as Brits look on them as odd, as “not normal”. But who are we to dictate what is ‘normal’? Perhaps we’re the odd ones out, a cold, distant society, missing out on a great opportunity. An opportunity to know our neighbours and work colleagues better, to be closer to our friends and family, to not be so awkward around strangers. To VALUE our community and the people in it. Wouldn’t that be exciting?!

I’m in.

* countryside

** kiss

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