I grew up greeting my Greek family and friends with a kiss on the cheek but I never thought to do it with my American friends. I found greeting with a kiss in Spain to be as natural as breathing. I thought it was charming and familiar, but my husband found it to be a bit unnerving at first.
When we moved to the Arab world, I was warned though, that I should never greet a man with kisses, on the cheek or otherwise! My husband thought he was off the hook until he realized that he would still be giving out kisses to men, something that might be really tough for a lot of guys. He got used to it, and I came to love the fact that women did not just kiss with one quick kiss on the cheek, but embraced warmly and kissed back and forth and back and forth… and sometimes back and forth again if you hadn’t seen a close friend in a while.
In Scandinavia, most people greet with a handshake until they become friends and then greet with a hug, but recently I made a huge faux pas when I was in The Netherlands. I greeted a new friend with two kisses and had a terribly awkward moment when my new friend tried to kiss me the third time and I just stood there looking like a confused dummy. She was very forgiving and we laughed a little, but it was a good reminder to me not to get too comfortable with where I am and to be attentive to new cultures!
What about you? Do you greet with a kiss? Does it depend on who you are greeting? Surely some of you have made a faux pas or two?
Photo: “Soho Greeting”, by Thurston Hopkins, London, 1956