Nice to Sniff- I Mean, Meet You!

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It makes sense. One quick cheek to cheek air kiss made with the right side of the face, not the left, keeps people from smacking into each other. There is no confusion. The cheek brushing is to be done upon greeting and departing here in Chile. It’s very important that one “saluda” each time in order to not be rude. It can extend to a half or full hug as well, depending on how close the parties are to each other. In an office building as well, the cheek brush holds sway. People who figure out I’m not from here occasionally extend the hand in a sweet gesture trying to make me feel welcome. My favorite part of the air kiss is that people take that chance to kind of smell the other person. Maybe not everyone or every time, but many Chileans have mentioned to me that this is normal. It’s part of getting to know someone here. Considering that Latin Americans tend towards obsession on the hygiene scale, this is not a gross exercise. It thoroughly amuses me when someone says, Hey, I like how you smell! It’s like, Nice eyes! – but through a different cultural filter. It’s even more entertaining when others vocally agree with such a statement, because it’s a totally natural thing to say here, and everyone has already given me a sniff.

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