Fear of honesty


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A game of stereotypes

Let’s play a game here. Let’s say you dance a super nice tanda with partner A and at the end of it she hugs you almost reluctantly and says thank you. Now let’s say you have partner B and you dance an equally super nice tanda. In the end, they stay in the embrace and give you a deep warm hug… after a few breaths together they leave you and tell you once more thank you with a deep smile that reaches their eyes. Which partner would you say fits the profile of a Greek and which of a German?

In my early years in Tango, in one milonga in Greece, I happened to dance with a more advanced dancer. When the Tanda ended I received an honest deep thank you embrace that really surprised me. It was the first time I received such an embrace and I was taken by surprise. Later, when I started dancing in Germany I was getting this deep honest thank you embrace much more often. In the beginning, it felt strange. I thought they were overreacting or that there was something else behind all this that I didn’t really catch. I wasn’t sure how to react myself. As time passed by I got used to it and felt more comfortable opening up myself and enjoying, initiating, and returning those embraces. Today these Tandas are still very often but I have noticed another issue.

This doesn’t happen so often when I now dance in Thessaloniki. I guess it never happened often anyway. Obviously, I cannot judge and understand how my partner feels when we dance. I sense however the connection during the tanda and if I am not mistaken… I understand that my partner is also enjoying the tanda. However, in the end… It’s like they feel uncomfortable hugging deeply, staying in the embrace to say thank you. It feels like what I was experiencing when I first went to Germany but with the roles being inverted now. It feels like they are in a hurry to break the embrace… or somehow ashamed to hug you as soon as the music is over. Like the music was the only excuse to embrace each other. Sometimes I can even sense that they try to mask it and refrain themselves.


Obviously, the two descriptions above break the stereotype that Greeks are warmer and more expressive while Germans are a bit colder and more reserved with their expressions. Some time ago, I was watching a video about Dutch culture and how people in the Netherlands are considered to be more direct and literal. When you tell a Dutch person “Let’s meet for a coffee sometime soon” they really believe that you intend to call them and arrange something. In Greece many times such expressions are just a social convention to end the conversation on a happy note with someone you have met after a long time.

The video explained that the directness of Dutch comes from a history of negotiations as they are a nation that developed a lot through commerce. As a nation of traders, they needed to develop good negotiation skills, and therefore being direct on what they wanted when entering negotiations saved a lot of time and turmoil in the end. They were expecting the same from the other side in order to find common ground and a compromise much easier. Given what I wrote in my previous post about the German dialog culture I can say that Germans are pretty similar in this. Direct and honest even if this sometimes may come across as impolite. They don’t care about breaking your heart as long as they are honest about what they tell you.

On the other hand, Greeks seem to think a lot more about appearing impolite. They prefer lying and being dishonest as long as they don’t appear to be cruel and cold to you. The main reason for this is, in my opinion, the fact that the image of people in a community still plays quite a big role in Greece. People still try to hide their true feelings and identities just because they are afraid of what other people might say about them. Communities still value people who are actually empty and worthless just because they appear to have a good image. If you take a look at our politicians you can see that pattern so often.

The real problem

“They must be in a relationship… I saw them together in all the workshops” a lady told me once for a young couple of dancers in a milonga in Greece. I knew both of the dancers and obviously knew that they were in no relationship at all but nevertheless, the assumption made was purely based on stereotypes. In communities that value image over value, stereotypes will always be the easiest solution to find answers, even if they are false. In such a community it is often for people to misinterpret what they see… even an extra millisecond of an embrace after the end of a Tanda. In a community that disregards stereotypes and goes beyond them searching for the real value, nobody cares to misinterpret an honest deep thank you embrace.

The problem is that these stereotypes and such judgments are what inevitably lead people to be afraid to express their true emotions in the dance. That is why after a super nice tanda many people in Greece will hesitate to stay in the embrace, and hug deeply and honestly their partner. They are afraid that their honesty will be misunderstood as something else (e.g. sexual attraction). Especially when this is in a local milonga where a lot of people already know them.

The problem however is not that you are not honest with your partner. The bigger and real problem is that these dancers are first and foremost dishonest to themselves. They try to hide even their happy children (based on the analogy of emotions being our children) and they do it for the sake of other people’s opinions. They sacrifice a piece of themselves just so that other people will not see their real emotions. To me, this is as bad as hiding your dark side and not expressing your dark emotions. This takes out something from your own Tango. So, don’t care for other people’s opinions. Care only for being honest at the specific moment with yourself and with your partner.

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango is called La mentirosa and has to do with a love that has been unfulfilled because of one partner being dishonest and giving the wrong impression to the other. Of course, this is much deeper than just being dishonest in your dance but this behavior is something that comes from much deeper societal causes rather than a simple momentary decision.

So what about you? Have you come across such restrained behavior? Are you behaving like this? Do you feel complete after such Tandas? Are you afraid to open up? What stands in your way to do so? Let me know with a comment below, an email, or a PM on Facebook… oh… and if you liked it… don’t forget to share it with your friends.

La mentirosa – Osvaldo Pugliese


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