I don’t give hugs. I have a couple of reasons for this, but the main one is that I am adverse to physical contact. Coming to Brazil, I never thought that this and many other personal preferences I have would make my experience more challenging.
For example, it’s very common in Brazil to greet someone with a hug and a kiss on each cheek. At first I thought this was doable for me because it seemed like the type of custom that would only take place between close friends and family. But I quickly found out that this practice applied to everyone; even people I met once and will probably never see again expected me to greet them this way. Although I knew this would make me uncomfortable, I figured it would be inappropriate to reject this custom, so I decided to just go along with it. Although it was difficult at first, I eventually got used to the Brazilian way of greeting people. But it wasn’t until recently that I was able to identify what allowed this change to take place.
One of my close friends here in Brazil always uses the phrase “get over yourself”. Although she has yet to use this in regard to my reluctance to give hugs, it indirectly summarizes why I grew accustomed to this aspect of Brazilian life in lieu of catering to my comforts. As I said before, I made the effort to greet people with a hug and a kiss not because I wanted to, but because I didn’t want to offend anyone by not adhering to this custom. I’ve always known that my preference not to give hugs was a mental thing, but I never had any urgency to change my ways until it became an issue of common courtesy like it is here.
I think this phrase is apt for the types of culture clashes one would encounter abroad because it holds a connotation of self-responsibility. It implies that nobody is going to change their way of being just to cater to an outsider; at the end of the day, it is your decision whether or not you want to adapt to the culture you’re in. Though this decision varies from person to person, I definitely think that this idea of adaptation is essential to getting the most out of my experience abroad.