Cheek Kissing Traditions

Don't get off on the wrong foot!

When being introduced, cheek kissing traditions vary in every country. It is one of the most important traditions to be aware of when you meet someone for the first time as getting it wrong could offend someone unintentionally.

UK Traditions - what many people don't know

Contrary to what most people think in the UK, you should not kiss on the cheek when you have not met someone before. Always take the initiative to shake their hand first.

Your body language should automatically make that quite clear to your guest. Of course if they go to kiss you at your first introduction, then it is good manners to lean into it to avoid causing them any embarrassment.

When you do greet and kiss a friend, you should bring them in by placing a hand on their shoulder and aim for their right cheek first, but be prepared to change direction at the last minute! Be decisive!

Not many people are aware of the etiquette of cheek kissing traditions so you will need to take the lead – do you want one or two kisses? Take charge and make it quite clear, pull back immediately if you are just settling for the one, again using your body language as your communication to let them know. If you leave a lipstick mark on their cheek you must tell them immediately.

If the group is bigger than eight people it can feel a little silly to keep kissing everyone, so settle with waving them all in or blow a few kisses.

International Cheek Kissing Traditions

The following provides you with a kissing tradition guide on how many kisses are expected in certain countries:

  • USA - Normally just a handshake and a hug for friends.
  • UK - One or two for family and close friends, a handshake for others.
  • Canada - One or two.
  • Australia & New Zealand - One or none.
  • France - Up to four kisses and always starting on the left cheek.
  • Netherlands - Three kisses but if greeting a close member of the family or an elderly person the a few more, always ending on the cheek that you started.
  • Germany - One or two for close family and friends otherwise a handshake.
  • Italy - Kisses only for very close friends, handshakes and hugs are more common.
  • Spain - Two kisses and always starting on the right cheek.
  • Scandinavia - Two kisses.
  • Russia - Three kisses

Other Social Etiquette Skills to learn on this site:

Conversation Etiquette

Introduction Etiquette

Taboo Chat

Social Faux Pas

Gift Giving Etiquette

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The Author, Emma Dupont, runs various courses in London during the year.

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