Woody Allen said “As long as you haven’t been kissed during any of those rainy Parisian afternoons, you haven’t been kissed at all”.
Having met my wife in Paris, I have to agree with Woody. There really is something magical about Paris. It can be as busy and loud as any other big city, but it also offers plenty of places to just get away from it all, and enjoy the company of someone you love. We gathered some of the most romantic spots in the city (thanks to some tips from the Parisian tourist board), and added some of our own recommendations.
Remember that scene from the movie “Love Actually” that takes place in Heathrow Airport? The one where everyone is arriving and being greeted with big hugs and happy kisses from their loved ones? That may be what Heathrow really looks like now that the airport has hung the world’s largest mistletoe.
The 10X8 structure, which weighs 43kg, will hang in Terminal 5 through December (and according to the Heathrow press release), other giant mistletoe will be hung in Terminals 1, 3, and 4.
Heathrow officials expect nearly 3 million people to arrive at Heathrow in the coming month, with close to 500,000 of them coming between December 19th and December 24th alone. The airport is hoping that 2 million kisses will take place beneath the giant mistletoe this month.
The French bise (salutatory kiss on the cheek) is always slightly awkward for those of us who haven’t grown up using it. Do you kiss once, twice, three times, or even four? Fortunately this map, made by a Frenchman named Gilles Debunne, gives a geographical explanation for just how many cheek kisses you should administer. The map was made after a poll that Debunne did with over 18,000 people, asking just how many bises they were used to doing upon meeting a fellow compatriot.
Unfortunately, a map can only do so much, and even within some départements there is still confusion on just how many bises to do. But here are some basic rules for French cheek-kissing that will help to make your introduction to a French person a little less awkward:
- You don’t need to kiss the cheek of a superior (a boss, the President, etc.).
- Offer your right cheek; just like when you stretch out your arm for a handshake.
- Men can get away with not kissing each other hello; this is often reserved for very close friends or males with a familial connection.
- If you don’t feel comfortable kissing people on the cheek, play the foreigner card and at least go for a handshake. Definitely make eye contact with everyone in the room; not making an effort to give an official hello is a major faux pas.
In our time here we have learned a few tips that have made our lives easier while living and traveling in Mexico. As with all countries, making the effort to be polite will always work in your favor. Mexicans are very friendly people and are more than willing to assist you with whatever you need. However, being demanding, disrespectful and causing a scene are all great ways to not only lose whatever help you might have received but also furthers the unfortunate stereotype that all foreigners are impolite.
Some things to keep in mind when you explore Mexico:
- Always Greet People First
Always greet whomever you want to speak to with “Buenos Dias” (Good morning), “Buenas Tardes” (Good Afternoon) or “Buenas Noches” (Good Evening). It is customary to greet staff when you enter a store and to acknowledge them on your way out. If you launch into a tirade about what you want without a proper greeting you can expect mediocre service–Mexicans find this type of behavior extremely rude.
- Shake Hands and Pucker Up
Like some European countries it is customary to shake hands (for men) or kiss cheeks (this only applies to women) whenever you greet your Mexican friends. Men usually shake hands, though the Baja has some local handshakes which have a few flashy add-ons. Women are not included in the fancy handshakes — I asked a gentleman why he didn’t high-five me and he look absolutely appalled that I would even consider it. So ladies, get ready to kiss a lot of cheeks. Surprisingly, for a culture full of machismo, bone-crushing handshakes are considered impolite, a light grip is more than adequate.
- Remember to Ask for the Bill
Tom and I sat for ages in a café waiting for the server to realize we were ready to go. We finally asked for “la cuenta” (the bill) and quickly left the restaurant complaining of the poor service. A friend of ours enlightened us to the fact that it is considered rude to bring the bill to the table if it has not yet been requested. Instead of rushing you out of the restaurant, the servers give you time to relax and enjoy your meal, quite a change from Canada where the staff tend to push you out the door so they can serve more customers. Whenever you are ready to leave just nicely ask for the bill.
- Address People Using their Titles
Titles are a huge deal in Mexico. “Señor”, “Señora” and “Señorita” all show respect and it is best to use them until the person you are speaking with indicates otherwise. Education is highly regarded and it is a good idea to address people by these titles as well, “Doctor(a)”, “Ingeniero” (engineer) and “Profesor(a)” (professor)) are some titles you may come across. If you are a university grad you can always introduce yourself as “Licenciado(a)” in formal situations.
- Say Adios to your Personal Bubble
Mexicans tend to stand close when they are talking to you. This can take some getting used to but whatever you do try not to step back, it is considered offensive and gives the impression that you don’t want to be near that person.
Overall, the best thing you can do in Mexico is to be respectful to everyone. From taxi drivers to business executives you need to make sure you treat everyone graciously. Those travelers who make the effort to be courteous and polite will experience better service, lots of smiles and a much better reception when traveling in Mexico.
“No Wrong Turns” chronicles Kelsey and her husband’s road trip — in real time — from Canada to the southern tip of South America in their trusty red VW Golf named Marlin.