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Journals from Spring Semester 08: Oaxaca, Mexico

2008-03-22 Oh amor!

Affection in the Mexican culture is very different than that in the United States. Everyone is affectionate here, young, old, and the in-between. The affection starts as soon as you meet someone. The typical greeting between men is a handshake and/or hug. When greeting a woman, whether you are a man or woman, it is common to kiss one another on the cheek. The first time I met my host mom she kissed me on the cheek. When I met my host brothers and dad they did the same to me as well. But the affection does not stop there. My family has been making me feel more and more at home. I hug my host brothers occasionally as well. I recently cut 5 inches off of my hair due to the hot weather here and now when they see me sitting in the kitchen theyll come by and pat my head or rough up my hair a little. I act almost exactly the same way around my three host brothers as I do with my three real brothers. We joke around and laugh about stupid things and tease each other. A little play fighting is normal too--well, at least for me it is. Family is very important here and showing affection to one another is expected. My host parents are very affectionate with each another, but not in an uncomfortable, Im grossed out manner. They kiss, hold hands, and go for walks together all the time. I find it to be very sweet. Theyve been married for so long and you can still see the love they feel for each other as well as the love they have for their children. My host parents kiss my host brothers and they are all very open with telling each other their feelings and saying "I love you." Public displays of affection are very, very, very common. It does not matter where you are. Couples are everywhere holding hands, hugging, caressing, making outall in public. They want everyone to know how they feel towards their significant other. I am used to a certain degree of PDA, but here they take it to a whole new level. At first it really bothered me, but now I have become accustomed to seeing it. Its still a little awkward to walk by couples making out and being all lovey-dovey when I walk by on the streets, but obviously it is very normal to them. I still remember Valentines Day! The streets were full of balloons, flowers, chocolates--you name it, they were selling it. The days before Valentines Day, my brothers were singing more than usual (they are very musical and sing and play guitars every day) so they could later serenade their girlfriends. At midnight, as soon as Valentines Day started, they hopped in their car with their friends and drove to their houses to sing to them. Apparently they do this every year, if they are dating someone. The morning of Valentines Day I walked out and saw that my brothers girlfriend was over and that her mom had driven her over so they could say "Happy Valentines Day!" before they both went off to their universities. One of my brothers didnt have a girlfriend at the time and he was telling me how stressful Valentines Day is in Mxico. Flirting here is pretty much the same as it is in the United States, but with a little more affection. Of course, it always depends on the personality of the person trying to flirt with you. A lot of guys here seem to be pretty straightforward if they are interested. Flattery is utilized with full force. They will tell you that you are beautiful, that you are perfect for them, and try to get closer to you. If your hair is blown in your face they will take their hands and move it. And yes, pickup lines are used! I happen to love pickup lines, not that they really work, but I just find them to be entertaining and funny. Not only are the couples affectionate, but friends are affectionate with each other as well. Girls will hold their friends hands or link arms as they walk down the street and chat. Its normal to see a big group of guys, just hanging out and having a good time, without girls. Friendship is very important; friends are family. Well thats all I have for now. Buenas noches. Erica Reinhold

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