Can't we just hug in place of friendly kisses?
Endy M. Bayuni,The Jakarta Post/Asia News NetworkJAKARTA -- The Eid celebrations this past week means I have had to do a lot of hand shaking with friends and acquaintances, and in some cases to reflect the intimacy of our relationship, kissing and hugging — the friendly rather than the romantic type.
August 19, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
One thing that has constantly bugged me is that increasingly in Indonesia men are kissing other men on the cheeks as a way of greeting one another. Blame former president B.J. Habibie for starting this Arab tradition in this country.
During president Suharto's years, the common practice was shaking hands. You could extend two hands to reflect the warmth of the relationship. For more intimate relations, some people would kiss on the cheeks, or rather their cheeks would touch one another, but this would be between men and women or between women and women. Never between men and men.
Habibie started the trend as soon as he moved into the Presidential Palace in 1998, greeting his male guests with kissing on the cheek. Soon enough, everybody else was doing the same. This is one legacy that Habibie, not exactly a social trendsetter, has left for Indonesia during his short presidency.
Don't get me wrong. I have no problems with kissing, or being kissed by other men, if this is the acceptable norm. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Many times in the past week, I have kissed relatives, neighbors and friends of the same sex on the cheek.
Conservative Muslim Indonesians may frown upon same-sex marriage, but same-sex kissing is definitely the trend.
But wouldn't it be nicer if we just hugged?
I told a little lie. I do have a traumatic experience with being kissed by a man.
An ambassador (not from Middle East) was throwing a farewell party some years ago, and as I was leaving his residence, we bade goodbye, hugged and then, suddenly he planted a really wet smooch, one on the right cheek, and another on the left.
It was the kind of kiss only my one-year grandson would give, and even then only because I insisted on it. I looked the ambassador in the eye to convince myself the kiss didn't mean anything more than a warm goodbye. He must have had a glass of wine too many.
A kiss is still a kiss, so the saying goes, but the fact I'm writing about it means I still remember it.
I've mastered the social etiquettes in cosmopolitan Jakarta to know when and with whom to shake hands, to kiss on the cheek, or to hug, whether with a woman or man.
Through my travels, I have also observed that in the U.S., one kiss is enough, in Europe it's twice on both cheeks, except in France, the Netherlands and Belgium, where it's three times. In the Middle East, of course, it's strictly men and men as far as I am concerned.