American singers Hall & Oates sang about a kiss being on their list. Well, if they were European, that list might be pretty lengthy and include kisses from just about anybody (friends, neighbors, colleagues) for just about any reason (saying hello, thank you, congratulations). Europeans are very kissy.
Of course, I’m not talking about sensual lip-to-lip kissing, but of friendly cheek kissing. You don’t even really actually kiss the cheek. It’s more like you place your cheek on the other person’s and then sort of just kiss the air next to them. To get a better idea, think of the snobby, fashion-conscious, female character from any Miami or New York-based TV show who always wears designer sunglasses, carries her little dog around with her in a Louis Vuitton bag, and says “ciao” to everybody when she leaves an exclusive rooftop party. These people, even if they’re American, do those kisses too.
These cheek kisses are a very European thing and I’m all in. I even give them to my friends and family back in America. I guess I caught them off guard at first, but they know to expect it now. Though I should probably specify that you don’t really give people you just met kisses to say “hello”. However, if you get along swimmingly and bond a bit, I think there’s nothing wrong with giving goodbye kisses. For me, it’s a way of saying “ok, we know each other now”.
These kisses even happen between two men and two women and I find it much nicer than the awkward, man-on-man hug/back-thumping that leaves plenty of room for the holy ghost. And this has nothing to do with being gay. I just think that the American “we’re both men and I care about you, but we have to stay macho because feelings are lame-o” embrace is silly.
Now, back to the subject at hand and what I’ve learned of kissing culture in Europe. Italians generally do two kisses, starting on the right. Starting on the right. If you mess that up, you might both go the same way and get more than you bargained for… which can also be fun. Just sayin’! Anyways, it’s two quick kisses and that’s it! No way to really mess that up too badly, as long as you can count as high as two.
Swiss, on the other hand, do three kisses. The “extra kiss” was something that I wasn’t prepared for when I first moved here. I think I left a few people confused and perhaps hurt some feelings, but I’ve got it down now. In fact, I’m a professional at the Swiss Triple Kiss. I don’t really get why they do three and I personally think it’s one too many, but if it’s what they do here, then ok. Three kisses it is! I just want to fit it, all right? My horrible German already makes me stick out, so at least let’s do the kissing correctly!
So throw your fears about personal space aside and remember, when packing your bags for Europe, bring your passport, your coolest shoes, and some mouthwash for greeting people.
Do you guys know of kissy greetings in any other countries? Let me know with a comment below!