Perez Halpern - English - January 2020

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January 2020

Jan. 21 is National Hugging Day, and that has me thinking about the ways we say hello in different cultures and social settings. In Puerto Rico, we hug, but there’s also a lot of kissing in a greeting. The standard greeting in Puerto Rico is a kiss hello, usually an air kiss on each side of the person’s face. When you say goodbye, you typically do air kisses, too. If you are out socially, say at a cocktail party or work event, and meet someone new, instead of a handshake, you say hello and air kiss. This gesture serves as an introduction, a greeting, and a farewell. Growing up in a culture that embraces physical contact in this way made it interesting to adapt to a culture where only close friends hug hello and goodbye. No air kissing and no hugging; you shake someone’s hand or wave to say hello. It’s been quite a cultural shift. In general, Hispanic culture needs a lot less personal space than others. Andy, our firm manager and someone I’ve worked with for years, was surprised to find out that I’m a hugger. He’s worked at the firm for the past 3 years, and he worked with me even before that. I’ve known him for a while, but he only just found out that I like hugs. Because it’s not the norm in professional settings in the United States, he’d never really seen me hug anyone. Being in the U.S., I’ve learned to let other people take the lead when meeting or greeting them in professional settings. If they go for a handshake or greeting with no physical contact, I follow that cue. While I come from a culture where hugs and kisses are common, that isn’t everyone’s experience. It’s always important to ask and understand what someone is comfortable with. CAN WE HUG? HOW WE SAY HELLO

goodbye. Period. Even if they’re running to the grocery store just a few blocks away or if they’ll only be gone for 20 minutes, they find whoever else is home and give them a hug and kiss. The same goes for when they get home — a hug and kiss hello. My husband, Josh, sometimes giggles a little at how important this ritual is to me. “I just saw you 20 minutes ago!” he says with a laugh. Often, he’s on a mission when he leaves or gets home, like when he’s just returned from the grocery store and is intent on putting the groceries away. “Don’t forget my hug and kiss!” I tell him. He laughs, then obliges. It might seem silly, but I will take every opportunity I can to connect and to show my loved ones I care through an embrace. Hugs are awesome.

How about you? How do you feel about hugs?

As my family knows well, I like hugs, and human touch to and from my loved ones is important to me. In our house, before anyone goes out, they give everyone else a hug and kiss

–Meliha Perez Halp ern

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