by Joan Hanawi
When I returned to the US from Ecuador, I didn’t understand why no one wanted to kiss me.
I was dumbfounded at the realization that my native United States felt like a foreign land upon return from spending time abroad. To me, the best part about traveling has always been experiencing a small slice of someone else’s life and sometimes, if you’re lucky, you even get to take a little bit of that lifestyle home with you. But I had taken a different lifestyle home with me and found that it didn’t fit into the home to which I was returning.
As a Global Citizen Year Fellow stationed in Ecuador, I had grown so accustomed to the affectionate way that Ecuadorians often greeted one another with a quick kiss on the cheek. After spending a year living there, I found it second nature to lean in for a peck rather than extend a hand in greeting. Throughout my time in the country, this was just one of the many aspects of Ecuadorian culture that I not only cherished, but also quickly embraced as part of my daily routine. However, when I attempted to carry over traits from my Ecuadorian life into my Californian life, there were clashes. When I leaned in to greet a Californian friend with a kiss on the cheek, they often recoiled in confusion. Needless to say, after quite a few muddled, awkward reunions with friends, I realized that this wasn’t working.