There is a great story about kissing in my younger years, but you will have to find David Gililland and go back to 1994 at ACU in order to get the truth. Let's just say that I had a quit the reputation. Annnyyywayyyyy.
When you enter any mission field from the States you are given an introduction into the local culture so you act as normal as possible and offend as few people as possible. In Africa you did not cross your legs and show the bottom of your feet. In Asia you most often remove your shoes when entering someones house. There are things you should know when entering a culture so you can be respectful of the people you are trying to serve.
In Brazil amoung other cultural items we were taught, you kiss. It is not some open mouth kiss to every stranger you are introduced to.The common custom is to kiss or "air kiss" both cheeks (facial cheeks) of women you meet. Women kiss women, men kiss women, men do not kiss men (at least not in a church setting).
So this is the custom. Thanks to my Aunt Janice from Connecticut I was ready for this exchange (I thought). She always kissed us this way and it became a sign of endearment from her that my sister and I always appreciated.
The problem begins when you enter into the culture and away from just the idea or teaching of the culture. This greeting kiss normally (if not always) takes place between family members or very close friends. This is not just a casual greeting on the street. But in the church we are all brothers and sisters and family under God, so when Shar and I and the kids first arrived at church it was kiss fest 2012, and that was just on Saturday with the staff. On Sunday it was as if we had been there 20 years and then left and returned. I was kissed by every elderly woman in the room and Shar seemed to be very popular. But once Sunday passed the kiss became something we had to force ourselves to remember. Bruno and Tami are our hosts but should we kiss every day? Saints these two are by the way. If you come to Rio and do not meet them then you have missed out. Bruno's family (mom, dad, siblings live right next door.We see Bruno's mom almost every morning before we catch the bus. She has somewhat adopted us so she gets a kiss. I decided to choose to error on the friendly side and kiss everyone that has the willingness to greet me. Shar normally follows my lead but sometimes forgets and then goes in for the apology greeting kiss. I get confused sometimes and just go for the good old church hug instead and the other person tries to kiss and then we end up in some awkward side hug kiss. Very awkward.
And since men do not kiss then the hug is the substitute for male to male greetings of significance. But when you do not know someone it is often a bit unnatural also. I want to do the full on Bubba Martin hug (California people) or the Clint O'Rear hand shake bro-hug (Hills people) but neither are working. It is more of a side half hug back pat that I am now giving and receiving. I think tomorrow I will just introduce the entire country of Brazil to the loud High Five and call it good. Mission work is very stressful.
Love to you all.