Isn’t it romantic? Love among the Lebanese
Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 18, 2007
A few weeks ago I received an email from a Lebanese-American friend, who described a day of skiing with his young son as “very romantic”.
I replied, telling him how much I love the Lebanese use of “romantic” for situations (like a father-son ski experience) that do not quite fit the American understanding of the term. In response, he told me rather firmly that 1) I did not need to be Lebanese to use the term romantic and 2) my understanding of the term was somewhat narrow.
He might be right, but I still think (stereotyping wildly) that Lebanese and Americans understand “romantic” as a word that encompasses some very different experiences.
For me, the most striking difference comes in the way hugs and kisses are viewed here.
In Lebanon (and much of the rest of the region), kisses are commonplace. Everyone kisses hello – the trick is to determine whether each greeting will be a one, two, or three boussa exchange.
Everyone kisses, but few people hug. As an American, I miss the great big bear hug hellos that to me signal closeness and affection between friends and family.
For me, kisses are for romance; hugs are for friendship and for familial love.
Hence I was flummoxed last year when the person I was dating told me one day: come and give me a hug – its more romantic.
I did as requested, feeling terribly awkward and not at all romantic. A hug? I thought. This isn’t romantic – I feel like your mother!
But perhaps in a culture where kisses – as the general form of greeting – are more impersonal, hugging is a more intimate thing.
Unfortunately, hugging did little to lengthen that particular relationship – but it did give me a greater appreciation for the hug’s versatility.