My biggest failure to adapting Dutch culture, kissing! No, please get your mind out of the gutter. I mean the three kisses on the cheek. I am utterly lost at every hello, every goodbye, every congratulations, even my birthday. It is worse then trying to figure out IKEA instructions. I am disaster and I am constantly in question. Do I kiss ? Do I not? Will I get to kiss my good looking acquaintance? How do I get it right and not wrong? I am all for kissing on the cheek, I enjoy kissing in all forms ;). So why is it so awkward for me? Growing up, I had more hugs with dogs than perhaps my family. Could that be some Freudian reason? Maybe. I have thought long and hard about my failure and some reasons seems to be clear. I am stuck with my logic and between my traditional conservative self and my completely open self.
Just like dating, it must be the other person to make the first move. I understand, I can be confusing. Some days I have no problem dressing to show my uh erm assets. Other days, I dress as if I just entered Jerusalem. My personality is out there and then I throw in some traditional viewpoints. Perhaps, it is when I send off my traditional vibe that the three kiss practice fails. That is my only explanation when at work someone’s birthday becomes an awkward gefeliciteerd (congrats). Or maybe they think kissing me on the cheek or vice verse is against my somewhat traditional Jewishness background. I can feel their hesitation and to me it is a red light to not go ahead.
Meeting my former in-laws. Oh dear the many conversations I had with the ex about this. I was confused, it would have seemed more comfortable to bow down. One former father in law, I never dared kiss on the cheek, but with the mother, no problem and it was a necessity. However, my other former in-law family were the opposite. The father no problem, or maybe because he was such a flirt. The mother, oh boy I was a sinking ship. I wanted to respect her space and I somehow found myself going into a shell. I tried for an awkward hug, but I think that is awkward for the Dutch. I still remember the long conversation of why I did not kiss my then boyfriend’s daughter. Hello? Does it not make sense that I am respecting the fact that she may not be comfortable around me or was still trying to figure out if I was the babysitter? Then I realized my logic failed and kissing on the cheek was important as otherwise I may have seemed like the wicked witch.
Then oh what drama, kissing on the cheek and romantic interests! How kissing on the cheek becomes the essential tool. The first date kiss on the cheek, the longer than normal and flirtatious kiss on the cheek is used as the electrifying clarification that a second date will happen. When things fail, it is the long kiss on the cheek to clarify some feeling are still there. Then 3 months later the absence of the kiss on the cheek for the exchange of a hug initiated by your Dutch counterpart is the bitter realization that the friend zone has been entered.
Kissing on the cheek has been turmoil for me. Every time I want to kiss someone on the cheek, I wait for their first move and they wait for my first move. Yeah that doesn’t work! You are left with an awkward goodbye. It is so silly that such a normal practice to the Dutch has become my still confusing daily encounters. Quite frankly, this MUST change. I need to step out of my comfort zone. I want to enjoy this warm interaction between people who enjoy each others company and who care for the other, whether friends, lovers or family. Studies show that touch heightens our happiness. So why should I miss out? What am I to do about 3 kisses on the cheek? Well, not being afraid to make the first move is a start. Demand my kiss on the cheek from former flames. Appear more open to the opposite person. It is simple, turn on the open vibe and take the first step. Time to give it a try at least. Perhaps invest in a good chap stick too…