Christmas festivities over, and Carnival weeks away, I wondered, what’s on the agenda for January? Surfing the internet showed that January 21st is National Hugging Day. I had to smile, because it seemed to me that the Canary Islands have no need to elect a specific day, since hugs and kisses are seen on every street corner and supermarket isle. Indeed, you might be forgiven that you’d stumbled into an awards dinner, watching the effusive greetings when friends meet in a bar or restaurant, including the most macho of men.
It’s very different from what we´re used to in the UK, but do you find Tenerife salutations a bit confusing? Does kissing a total stranger on each cheek appall you, or do you think that we Brits are a bit too much on the reserved side? I made a classic faux pas once, in a line-up, following the example of the friend at my side, I happily kissed a local politician on both cheeks. Only to have the friend explain that it should have only been one cheek, because I didn’t know the lady in question, but my friend had worked for her.
It was explained to me thus:
– You’re walking down the street in Playa de las Americas with a friend and bump into a friend of theirs. They introduce you, you kiss on each cheek respectfully rather than enthusiastically.
– You go to Los Cristianos to see your bank manager, someone with whom you’ve been doing business for a long time. This is when it’s just one cheek, although men will shake hands.
– Formal greetings, like my faux pas, one cheek.
– With friends you see regularly, oddly it can be more complicated. You certainly don’t walk into the office and kiss everyone daily, but if you haven’t seen them in even a short time then it’s the full-on smacker on each side. When people leave a group, as in a restaurant I’ve seen them go right around the table kissing everyone, but others just blow a kiss as they leave. This is down to your individual personality.
Physical contact is certainly not the taboo it seems to be in UK these days. I was shocked to read online that during President Obama’s visit to a school in London he and David Cameron had been taken to task for high-fiving after winning a point at table tennis. The school had a strict no touching policy. It seems sad that we should lose that personal contact when we need it to celebrate or comfort. My dad was once ready to fight a waiter in Santa Cruz as he stooped to kiss the head of my four-year-old son. It was an impulsive sign of affection, and there was nothing sinister in it I had to explain. By now I take this sort of behaviour for granted, but I can see how it might be surprising to those not used to it.
Contrarily, Canarians can be slow to smile, but don’t take offence at that either. We all have our own ways of communicating, and hugging and kissing is an everyday habit in Tenerife.
Category : about tenerife
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