I'd like to address the kissing that's going on here in Belgium.
Let me first say that I am not a prude, not by a long shot. In fact, I'm pretty much the opposite of a prude. I like kissing. I think kissing is ultra nice. Having said that, I don't like kissing strangers. As an example, I'd like to talk about a party that I went to a couple of evenings ago, then i'd like to contrast it with what would most likely happen in California in the same situation.
Beautiful home in Antwerp. Mood lighting lit, and jazz playing from strategically placed i-pods in each room of the house. Table in living room set beautifully with cheese, bread and fruit, and a cocktails of Ginger-ale, Pims and cucumber over ice served promptly.
Once we entered I was immediately greeted by several lovely people, by a kiss on the cheek. And then randomly, I was kissed thrice. Now, you never really know when to kiss once, and when to kiss three times. And to make matters worse, you really don't know who it is that you're kissing. First there is an introduction, and then the kissing commences. It's all very strange and awkward. Now, I don't mind kissing the people that I actually know. I mean, I'm not completely comfortable with it, but not completely uncomfortable either. Kissing random strangers, though...uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable.
Now let me contrast it with a California party.
Bungalow in the central valley. night time lighting provided by backyard bonfire. Grateful Dead blasting from record player on the patio. Bottles of beer in a bucket of ice on the ground...right next to a sleeping dog.
These are the kind of parties I grew up with. I'm comfortable with these kind of parties. When you meet someone new, or when you're introduced to someone you nod your head. That's it. You nod your head, and if necessary you say something like "cool" or "right on". Even at the fanciest parties, the most you might do is shake hands. Once, Roel and I were at a fancy party, and some old lady got all european on me and tried to kiss me on the cheek but missed and planted one right on my open mouth. Barf.
Let me say once again that I am not a prude. Let me also reinforce that Californians are not prudes. We are just VERY casual people. I'm trying to come to terms with this kissing thing. I live here now. I'm going to have to kiss.
I have to kiss strangers, but I don't have to like it.