Social Etiquette for Kissing

Written by natalie saar
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When people see each other, there are several options for how to greet the other. Shaking hands, hugging and kissing are typical ways to say hello. While kissing on the cheek in greetings is normal in some countries, in the United States it is not as frequently used. This can present some troublesome situations for people who want to use this gesture.


When greeting someone with a kiss, there are some things to think about. One is who the other person is. Some younger people feel uncomfortable when an older person uses the social kiss, so if there is a large age gap it may be best to refrain. Another time it may be inappropriate is when the kiss is used on someone's significant other. This may cause one partner to be uncomfortable.


The social kiss is used often in Mediterranean countries and in international politics. In these countries, people are more comfortable with physical touching, so it is used more. When diplomats greet each other, they frequently use this greeting as well. Do not use this type of greeting when meeting someone for the first time because it may make people uneasy. Business meetings are also instances in which a person should not use the social kiss.

Gender Differences

Gender is an important factor in when to use the social kiss. Younger women are sometimes made uncomfortable by older men kissing them. Also, men are typically uncomfortable with other men kissing them in salutation.


If a person is not comfortable with kissing, one way to remedy this is to promptly extend a hand. This will cue someone to shake hands before the person even has a chance to try and greet with a kiss. People may feel awkward about the kiss, so if you are going to kiss in salutation make sure that you are not tentative or it may present an awkward situation.


Some people give a different number of kisses. It may be anywhere from one to four depending on the person and the country of origin. Also, different countries start on different cheeks. Most people start with the right cheek; however, sometimes it goes the opposite way. Nose bumps and kissing on the wrong side occasionally happens, so do not be embarrasses if it happens to you.

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