It has been awhile since my last post. I haven’t written much because frankly, life feels normal again. Nothing fascinating has happened and I did not want to bore myself (or readers) on a post that consisted of “I woke up, I ate, I worked, I slept.” The newness of El Paso is wearing off and I am settling into the very unpredictable routine of a Border Fellow. Each day is still different: I have a basic idea of what my day will look like, but it often changes last minute. I am thankful for being a flexible person because I am sure this would drive a lot of people nuts (I never thought I would adjust to unpredictability, but now it is familiar like a long-time friend).
I thought I would write about an interesting El Paso social norm I’ve slowly adjusted to. Actually, I am not adjusted to it at all, and it has resulted in some fairly awkward and possibly uncomfortable situations (for me and others involved). Granted, Keisha would tell you that I am, in general, an awkward person…so maybe this isn’t an “El Paso thing,” and perhaps it’s just a “me thing.”
I love hugs and greeting people, but those are two separate things for me. I love hugs from close friends. I like greeting new people in social settings. However, I do not like hugging and greeting people I do not know at the same time. This also means I do not like hugging and saying “goodbye” to people I just met.
In college, I felt very comfortable around my friends. I always found myself spending time with my roommates, social work class friends, or small group. I did not find it necessary to hug every single person “hello!” as I walked into the room. It was more common to say one, big, general “hello” as we walked in the door and then sat down and started to talk. Before I, or anyone else left, we announced to the entire group that we had to leave, we would all say “goodbye,” wave and smile, and then I (or the others) would leave.
It was simple. Easy. It did not take that long to say hello and/or goodbye.
WELL. Let’s just say in El Paso, it is a very warm, embracing, and welcoming city. Apparently, being raised in Virginia means I’ve learned to create some strict physical boundaries that often leaves me fairly uncomfortable in social settings. (Which is sooooo funny, because compared to a lot of people, I would consider myself a very warm and embracing person. But when I’m compared to El Pasoens….I do not even come close).
Shall I give an example? Here we go (oh, and by the way, this social norm only applies to smaller group settings, between 3-15 people):
Let’s say you are attending a little social gathering in El Paso. You know that there will be about 10 people there, perhaps you know them, and perhaps you do not. As you walk in the door, it is expected that you go around and say hello to every single person. You hug, shake hands, kiss cheeks, etc. You probably will not set your purse down or take off your jacket until every person has been greeted in some capacity. You may even have mini-conversations along the way as you make your rounds, but you can’t sit and settle down until EVERY person is greeted.
Okay, so greetings aren’t so bad. In fact, this actually seems somewhat normal to me. It’s when you have to leave.
Remember, I am used to saying one general goodbye – I might even add a wave. Maybe I’ll hug one or two people, but it’s not a necessity.
In El Paso, you hug every person goodbye. It doesn’t matter if it adds 10-30 minutes to your departure… You better hug people goodbye.
Now, there were many times when I left a meeting or group hangout without saying goodbye, and apparently, it was noticed and felt “off” to the others. It can seem cold and insincere. So now, I am trying to be more aware of this and make more of an effort to say my warmest regards, give a hug, and leave without being ingenuine to those I’m around.
Maybe it’s just me, but this has been the hardest social norm to adapt to.
I would love to know ya’lls thoughts! Feel free to comment and share. Who knows, maybe it’s just me and this is a normal thing throughout the entire U.S. and somehow, I haven’t gotten with it lol.
Hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas, Happy Chanuka, and a wonderful holiday season!
Peace and blessings ❤