To Hug or to Kiss?

I certainly didn’t intend a two month hiatus – thank you all for sticking with me!

I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew in life, and these last few months were no different. I went back to work as a PT on a per diem basis, I continued to teach French to preschoolers, and I took three university level French courses. I look forward to blogging more about that soon…. Oh, yeah, I’m also taking care of two energetic preschoolers and ramping up my workouts for triathlon season. Life is busy. Life is good.

We are prepping for a French-filled summer! We will be traveling to Iceland and France and then spending a few weeks in San Diego where my kids (now ages 3 and 4 1/2) will be doing day camp at the San Diego French American School. I am so excited to see how their French progresses! We’ve fallen off the wagon a bit with teaching (pushing, coercing…) them to speak French, and I’m hoping these activities will get us back on track.

First up, a trip to France! The other night, as I was tucking my daughter into bed, I told her that in France, when we greet friends and family, we give them a kiss on each cheek rather than a hug. I’m a huge hugger – I love nothing more than to give people in my life a big enthusiastic squeeze. My kids, too, give the best hugs – big tight squeezes that I can’t get enough of. I learned the hard way that this does not always go over well with the French. I remember telling my husband once how awkward it felt to me to kiss everyone, pressing my cheek to theirs. His response: More awkward than pressing your whole body up to everyone and squeezing tight? I see his point… The two cheek kiss greeting no longer feels awkward to me, but my daughter was confused.

Among her questions:

“Why don’t we give hugs?”

“Why do we just make a kiss sound and push our cheeks together instead of really kissing them?”

“Why don’t we kiss them on their mouths?”

Excellent questions, all. Then, she melted my heart with this:

“So, when I see Mimi and Papy, I kiss them like this,” here she demonstrated kissing me on each cheek, “And then the kiss goes to their hearts?”

Exactly, my amazing child. Exactly.

Can’t wait to introduce these two to France. It’s fun to visit a place we know so well with very little agenda – we don’t have anything we absolutely must see, so we’re planning a vacation around activities like puppet shows, toy boats at the Luxembourg gardens, and then lots of beach time and crepes in Brittany. My daughter really wants to see the Eiffel Tower, but I have a feeling the most exciting thing we will do will be to ride the metro. At any rate, it will be a different kind of trip than we’ve ever had. Fingers crossed for good weather and good tempers (the latter being more about me than my kids, I’m sure!)

15 thoughts on “To Hug or to Kiss?

  1. It’s nice to have you back. There’s lots of juggling in your life–all of it good if a little overwhelming. I am long past three-year-old children and cannot imagine your pace. I love hearing about children traveling. We are true believers and our children have benefited enormously as a result. There’s nothing like exposure to the world outside our borders to humble even the most proud and patriotic American. Enjoy your time in France. We’ll be following you in the fall as we no longer have to travel according to the school schedule. What a relief.

    • Thank you! I’m looking forward to the trip. It will be interesting to see what my kids, especially the older of the two, think of it all. I agree that travel and exposure to the world’s many different cultures, languages, peoples, and places is hugely beneficial to all. It’s an area where I have no qualms about “spoiling” my kids! Enjoy your trip in the fall – what a lovely time to visit!

    • Merci! While it now comes automatically to kiss as a greeting in France, I still sometimes find myself giggling over it – either at the awkwardness of it for me, or the weirdness of having to go through a huge line of people when you arrive at a party…

  2. So jelly. I married a Frenchman three years ago and I’m finally going to Paris {God willing} next summer. I’m so excited! Thanks for your great posts!

  3. The double cheek kiss took for me some getting used to when I first arrived in Spain. 10 years later, it’s awkward if I don’t! I’m so used to it. When I go back a visit the UK, they/we only do one air cheek kiss or handshake (I’m okay with them!) and I end up looking stupid as I expect 2! One air cheek kiss feels so wrong. Have a great holiday in France!

    • Thank you! I suppose like everything, it takes time to adjust, right? At this point, I feel like a little cultural switch flips inside me when I go to France and things, little and big, all change: language, dining, expectations in general, being okay with differences in personal space, lack of lining up in an orderly fashion, and kissing on cheeks 🙂

  4. Yeah, hugs still aren’t much of a thing here, though I have noticed people doing it more (mainly family members and close friends). It gets interesting when I have a whole group of people to greet and mentally I’m going, “OK, this person prefers kissing, this one likes hugs…” And then there’s the whole issue of how many kisses depending on where you are. Most of France is two, in Belgium it’s one, and in Montélimar (where I live now) it’s three. Now whenever I go somewhere and greet people I keep having to remind myself it’s only two kisses. Craziness. 😛

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