Manner Monday®: Social Kiss Etiquette

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Today’s Manner Monday answers a reader’s question about the Social Kiss…

Q: Can you share some rules & etiquette on greeting others with a kiss on the cheek?  At community social events I often bump into acquaintances that give a kiss; I’ve learned to not be surprised, but am not sure how to reciprocate. Do I give an actual kiss on the cheek or just touch cheek to cheek & making a kissing sound?  Also, how do I know if the person is just going to kiss one cheek or both? Thanks for your help! – Marni

A: When I was a Cruise Director working on cruise ships in Europe, the Social Kiss was a common occurrence when greeting friends and colleagues at each port. We created some pretty amazing friendships with port agents and tour operators we would see on a regular basis. Each greeting was always a warm and friendly kiss on the cheek accompanied by a brief hug. Sometimes it would be one kiss; sometimes two, three or four. I quickly learned that region dictated the number of kisses. The social kiss never felt invasive or flirtatious, it was always a sincere and genuine greeting that made me feel like a life-long friend.

Fresh off a contract in Europe, I was back on American soil (in Oklahoma), and I’ll never forget the awkward situation I created. After being accustomed to the social kiss, I ran into a male (married) friend whom I promptly greeted with a kiss on the cheek. I’ll never forget his body language – I could tell he had no idea how to process or react to the greeting. So I quickly did some back peddling, apologized and said I need to get back to the customary American greeting of a handshake.

The Social Kiss has been gaining momentum in the States. I believe this has much to do with to the advancements of technology and social media and the fact that we’re more and more becoming a multi-cultural society. And not to mention – we see it frequently on reality TV shows.

So how do you handle the social kiss?

Be a detective: you have a bit of investigative work to do with reading the other persons body language and social cues. In a professional situation – I would still opt for the handshake, which is always going to be your safest bet.

No need to pucker up: a social kiss consists of gentle cheek-to-cheek contact. You do not make contact with your lips to their cheek; no saliva or lipstick should make a landing. The majority of cultures who participate in this greeting start with right cheeks, just like a handshake – you shake with the right; you kiss the right cheek first. And no need for the ‘muwah-muwah’ sound (unless you’re with REALLY close friends, then it’s sometimes just fun to do).

No thanks: And if you’re uncomfortable with the social kiss, you can usually be successful in warding one off by offering a handshake before the other person has the opportunity to come in for the kiss.

If you are traveling outside of the States or doing business with someone from another culture, one of my favorite resources is “Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands”. They have a series of books that dig into international business etiquette, practices, and cultural cues. And cover everything from body language and hand signals, to who makes decisions and how to make a proper greeting for each culture.

Click to Tweet:  How do you handle the Social Kiss? #MannerMonday

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Thanks for reading… Kiss, Kiss!
– Carey Sue

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