How many kisses?

A small but very common confusion that arises when visiting new countries and cultures is how to greet people, and how this changes depending on how well you know this person.

Being brought up in Sweden, I come from one of the extremes. We shake hands with new people, regardless of the gender, and thereafter it’s depending on how often we see each other. If it is daily, we usually do nothing more than just say hello. If it’s more seldom, handshakes dominate between guys (with an occasional hug if we are really good friends); whereas intergender and girl meetings usually mean hugging. Most importantly: we don’t cheek kiss! This last fact leads to very awkward situations (for both parts) when greeting people from cheek kissing cultures. But mostly, it gets very uncomfortable for a Swede; kissing is simply too intimate.

Having lived abroad for some years now, I’m finally getting used to the kissing, and it comes (almost) naturally. Then comes the next confusion: how many times do we kiss? And which side to start? The French have solved at least the first problem by making a nationwide cheek kissing map. Apparently the numbers range from one to four. Confusing enough. Portugal, Switzerland, Italy, and Cyprus seem at least to be homogeneous in their kissing.

So far, however, I have only very rarely seen men cheek kissing – until Argentina! Here it is just as common among guys, as it is among/with girls. And when I say common, I mean daily. Here, kissing is an every day procedure. Twice. When they meet, as well as when they part. And if there are fifteen people in the room, there is no cheating allowed. You make the entire round of kissing.

Ironically enough, this has been one of the easiest places for me to adapt to, kissing wise. Since it is a must, without exceptions, there is simply no doubt. We kiss.

As long as the person is an Argentinian, of course.

3 thoughts on “How many kisses?

  1. Well, that must be awkward the first few times, no? I can understand that once you adapt to it, it is easy, but that first time crossing the social and cultural barriers that you’ve developed through your life, it must be pretty weird.

    • Well, since I have slowly become accustomed to the cheek kissing from my time abroad, I think cheek kissing with guys came more like a surprise than as something awkward. I had been made aware of it before I experienced it the first time, so I guess that that took away most of the awkwardness.
      But sure, I think I will never engage in cheek kissing completely naturally – I think I’m too conditioned from Sweden for that.

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