Avoiding Crisis

besitos y abrazos*

with 10 comments

*hugs and kisses

Every morning I take my kids to school. At the doors of their respective classrooms they are greeted by their teachers with open arms. Hugs are bountiful. From the teachers and from their classmates.

My daughter is so accustom to this warm and very loving reception that she will not leave my side until she is greeted by one of her teachers.

I just came across this article the Washington Post. We talk about this issue a lot in our house. Among my expat and diplomat friends this is a common topic for discussion.

My children are growing up — first Peru and now Argentina — in an environment that encourages besitos y abrazos. Upon greeting someone and again when saying goodbye it is expected that you kiss and hug. As a result, if you were to meet my daughter, she’d most likely give you a kiss on the cheek when she says hello and a hug and a kiss when she was to say goodbye. She does this with adults and with her friends. It’s custom. It’s expected. It would be strange for her if she didn’t. My son, upon hearing the phrase, “besos y abrazos” will do the same. We encourage this behavior. I don’t see anything wrong with it. It’s how I greet people I meet.

That being said, I do worry about what will happen when we return to live in the United States. I worry about the first day of school when my daughter goes to give her teacher a hug and at the end of the day when she says goodbye to her friends.

We haven’t yet broached the issue with her directly because, well, she’s only 4. And because we still have a bit of time before she’ll be attending a school in the United States — it will be at least another year and more likely 3 more years. Hopefully, by the time she does attend a United States school she’ll be old enough to understand the difference between cultures and we can explain to her how what is accepted in one country is not in another.

But still, what’s so wrong about besitos and abrazos.

I guess such is life when raising a third-culture kid.


Written by nicolemarie

June 22, 2007 at 9:45 am

10 Responses

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  1. My sister (who is a Nicole Marie AND has a fraternal twin brother…freaky!) is a 5th grade teacher in an innercity school. One thing she has done in her classroom for the past 4 years is called “Hug or a Handshake”. All of her students get to choose how they great her in the morning coming into the classroom with – obviously – either a hug or a handshake. She’s said that the majority go for the hug.

    I’ve always though this was a neat idea. It’s good that your kids are giving and receiving affection. How that works out when they return to the states will really depend on their teacher.


    June 22, 2007 at 1:23 pm

  2. I have a friend who was dragged out of high school, suspended, and arrested for giving his teacher a hug. The charges filed were sexual harassment and assault.


    June 22, 2007 at 2:02 pm

  3. mike…and how did that one end? i don’t recall?

    also, that’s what I’m talking about. That incident was among a first in our area but in the years since things have changed drastically and that it is now common for schools to have policies about hugging, etc. and it’s these types of policies that I worry about with regards to my own kids, who know no different then to greet everyone with a hug and kiss. Can you just imagine little Abbey being kicked out of kindergarten…hehehe. okay so that’s an extreme. but as we know all too well, it does happen.


    June 22, 2007 at 3:41 pm

  4. steph…okay that is a bit freaky…about your sister being a nicole marie AND having a twin brother…his name’s not Mark is it? cause then that would be really weird.

    thanks for sharing about your sister’s experience. interesting that your sister can even give this choice to her students seeing that many schools have policies in place that forbid hugging and similar actions between students and teachers.

    glad to hear though, that students choose the hug over a handshake…i think some form of affection is good, even in schools.


    June 22, 2007 at 3:45 pm

  5. In the DC area issues of touch are the most tricky in middle school, but the incident reported in the Post was pretty much of an anomaly (that’s why it was reported). In elementary school there’s an emphasis on teaching mutual respect and comfort, in high school the students are hanging all over each other. However, for teachers sexual harassment is a very serious concern.


    June 22, 2007 at 5:41 pm

  6. It is a very nice and clever idea that of Steph’s sister (in the first response to the article).
    Her kids will learn to greet and say goodbye, which makes them polite and nice with peers.
    At the same time they choose how they will do it, which helps them to realize how their bonds are different with each kid; and gives them the possibility to feel comfortable with social relationships.
    Congratulations on the idea!


    June 22, 2007 at 7:03 pm

  7. It may seem odd for your kids at first when they are in the states. Kids are usually a lot better at adapting than adults, though!


    June 23, 2007 at 6:58 am

  8. My sister and I spent the day at the beach and I remembered to ask her a bit more about this hug/handshake deal and whether there were any concerns about “touching the kids”.

    She said she did it with her 4th graders and 5th graders, but when she taught 6th she didn’t because of their age. Although her school has a policy restricting teachers from touching students, her thoughts were (and the administration never gave her a hard time) that she was allowing the students to choose whether or not they wanted to hug her.

    Oh – and Nicole Marie – my brother is a Robert, not a Mark… 🙂


    June 26, 2007 at 5:39 pm

  9. “third culture kid”? want to explain that one? are you suggesting that a culture with customs that observes hugs and kisses when greeting or giving salutations is somehow beneath the possibly implied “1st culture” of customs in the U.S. which are clearly less developed, less caring and less personal of a culture? hope not cause pounding the potato “knucks” or a solemn handshake obviously is less people oriented. and that makes the supposed “1st world culture” look more like 3rd world culture. but if you only meant your child is a member of 3 cultures and trying to figure out where to fit in. you might find a better way to express that


    April 2, 2011 at 4:57 pm

  10. If you read the text, she’s an American and her children have grown up in Argentina and Peru. That’s 3 cultures. There’s nothing written about 3rd WORLD.


    April 21, 2012 at 3:36 am

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