2 May 2014

Kissing in Australia

Picture courtesy of Юкатан
Have you ever been confused by when to greet someone with a kiss on each cheek? How close do you need to be to the person to do so? Does it make a difference if they’re European? Should you kiss and hug or just kiss? And most important of all, how do you avoid the embarrassing situation when confusion leads to your lips touching the other person’s lips or you end up kissing their nose?

All these are valid questions if you live in Australia. As a Spaniard I’m used to giving friends two kisses when I see them and when I say goodbye. The same if I’m being introduced to someone new. I’ve even been in a situation where the members of a job interview panel gave me two kisses each. They didn’t give me the job. How rude of them.

When you are in a place where everyone does the same routine it’s easy. If you want to leave things a bit distant, you’re better off saying hello and not making a move, which would probably be enough to hint to the other person that you’re not fond of the two-kisses routine. At work it’s ok to shake hands. Stopping someone half-way through a kiss to say that you prefer not to get kissed or kiss them is just plain rude.
You may be wondering if it’s different with men. It is. Men in Spain kiss if they’re family. They may kiss and hug or kiss and pat each other on the back. Actually the friendly pat on the back can be pretty strong as some may consider it a way of checking how tough you are. Be warned.

Everything becomes complicated when you’re in an environment where this constant kissing isn’t tradition. So here is my advice if you want to make your life easier and avoid social awkwardness.

Go for it: the best way to avoid indecision and the accidents that may come with it is to make up your mind and just do it. No hesitation can save you a lot of trouble.

Be consistent: if you’re going to greet someone with two kisses, do it every time you see them. Avoid doing two-kisses one day, a kiss and a hug another, and a distant hello the third time. This will only confuse the other person and leave them wondering what the heck is going on.

Start with the left cheek: for some reason I always kiss the left cheek first and I’ve noticed most Spaniards do the same. Again, being decisive, as if you were leading a dancing partner, will help prevent accidental lip kisses, etc.

No need to hug if you’re not close to the other person: don’t feel you need to show a lot of affection. At least with Spaniards the two kisses is enough and I suspect it’s the same with other European cultures.

No need to have direct lip-to-cheek contact: but your faces need to touch, otherwise it’s just weird and most people don’t like it.

One kiss is actually more intimate than two kisses: this may be counterintuitive but the fact is two kisses is the ‘formula.’ If you step out of the formula it’s because you’re kissing someone ‘properly,’ that is your brother, your father, etc.