Valentine’s Day has passed, so the right moment to talk about kisses has probably passed too, but how you greet somebody is an incredibly important indication of someone’s personality. You may be aware that one very common thing to do when you greet someone is to kiss him or her on the cheek. But have you ever thought about how many times you are supposed to do so? One kiss on each cheek? Two kisses for one cheek? Alternating between one kiss on one cheek and two on the other cheek? And starting from which side? Right or left? (Remember that your right is the other person’s left.)
Yeah, these are all silly questions, but as a matter of fact, there are some considerable differences among the way people greet each other (remember Hillary Clinton greeting a Maori with a traditional Hongi greeting in Wellington, New Zealand?). If you ever had the occasion to meet a non-American person, you probably would have noted that, though Americans only do only one air kiss to greet, most Europeans instead do two, so it happened that when I was greeting an American girl when we met for coffee, while I was giving the second air kiss, she was already inside (I just thought that maybe Tatte was more interesting than me, but anyway). Now it may seem to be a goofy topic, but when two people’s greetings aren’t aligned, it’s really embarrassing, and not a good auspice for any would-be relationship. Trying to not be embarrassed anymore, and out of curiosity, I have done some research on the topic and I discovered that:
- Between strangers, Southern Europeans air-kiss two times, but it may differ in France where apparently some cities give one, and others up to four. The same applies for Latin America and for the Middle East (though typically only between members of the same sex).
- Northern Europe inhabitants usually shake their hands (It’s cold out there).
- Maoris in New Zealand touch their noses and foreheads (so sweet, I know).
- Tibetans show their tongues (This is great!)
- There are differences also between the sexes. For example, in India, only men are supposed to shake hands. In the Arab world, the same applies to the air-kiss thing.
- In Asia, usually people don’t touch each other, a bow is usually preferred or just nodding and smiling in China.
So it seems strange, but there is a lot of variability in the way people greet each other. The New York Times has done a useful guide for different customs to avoid embarrassing situations. You can find it here.