We had some Spanish pals here yesterday. Thinking about it this may be only the second time that we've had Spanish guests in the house. It doesn't say much for our integration. Maggie pointed out we don't have many people around at all. That doesn't say much for our friendliness.
The food didn't go down too well. The conversation was a bit forced at times and our Spanish may well have been quite comical but it was still a nice day.
One of our topics of conversation was about families. That led to kissing. Not the physical act, a conversation about it.
When I left the UK people never ended their conversations with family or close friends with "I love you" indeed for the most part I was able to avoid any of that false and ritualised sentimentality. I very seldom hugged the people I met. For colleagues and new acquaintances a firm handshake served very well. For old and dear friends words of greeting sufficed. I approve of handshaking, an ancient and appropriate gesture. I approve of old friends and the shared experiences. When some sophist was determined to give me a hug there was always the possibility of bloodshed, or at least a good nutting, as my forehead crashed into one part or another of the other person's head.
In Spain the greeting has rules too. Between men a handshake, possibly with a hand on shoulder to add warmth. Fine. Between women or between a man and a woman a kiss on each cheek, first right to right then left to left. Brushing cheek to cheek for first timers or acquaintances, more cheek or even lips to cheek for close friends. I understand the rules. I like the gesture. Bloodshed has been minimal.
My Spanish pal was explaining that close male family members and those solid, friend for life male friends also do the two kisses thing. I can't imagine that would go down too well in the UK even now.
Just a note: After Marilo's comments on Facebook I have changed the English slightly so as not to give the impression that Spanish people go around snogging each other in greeting.