The crucial social kissing etiquette rules. The appropriate ways to kiss someone, and to receive or avoid a kiss on a social occasion.
What social kissing etiquette is
Social kissing etiquette is the set of rules to define when and how it is appropriate to kiss someone on a social occasion. Such rules include:
- When it is appropriate to kiss someone.
- The appropriate ways to socially kiss.
- How to perform hand kissing.
- The mistakes to avoid.
Follow social kissing etiquette to appropriately greet someone with a kiss, receive a kiss, or avoid a kiss on a social occasion.
General social kissing etiquette principles
Social kissing etiquette is based on two main principles:
- Respect the local etiquette to greet someone.
- Avoid embarrassing or annoying others.
Social kissing etiquette rules
1) Who to kiss
The guidelines for social kissing can vary based on age, gender, cultural background, and personal preferences.
Normally, social kissing does not imply anything other than an acquaintance. In general, social kissing is commonly accepted as a greeting between women and between a woman and a man. Social kissing is less common among men, as most men are uncomfortable with it. However, social kissing is becoming more frequent among younger men or between male relatives.
Avoid kissing someone who may be embarrassed by it. Senior people may often prefer not to be greeted with a kiss. Similarly, children may be uncomfortable being kissed by adults they are not familiar with. Finally, it is not appropriate to kiss someone with a formal profession or who comes from a conservative background.
2) When to kiss someone
Social kissing can be appropriate on any type of social occasion. Kissing is most common as a greeting upon meeting someone. In some regions or social circles, it is common to kiss someone also when parting. At any other time, kissing is uncommon and potentially inappropriate.
In general, it is best to kiss someone only if you already met them. Avoid kissing someone the first time you are introduced to them.
3) The appropriate ways to socially kiss someone
The most common way to socially kiss someone is the double kiss. The first kiss should be on the right cheek, the second kiss on the left one. When a man and a woman kiss, the man should initiate it and kiss the woman’s right cheek.
A single kiss is less common but still appropriate, especially with someone who might not be comfortable with it. Such as seniors and children.
Giving an air kiss means getting close to the other person’s cheek, but not making contact. It is not intrusive and many people may prefer it. However, an air kiss can be rude, as it signals an unwillingness to socially kiss someone. Thus, when giving an air kiss, it is advisable to make at least light contact between cheeks.
When socially kissing someone, aim at the mid-cheek. Kiss the cheeks far enough from the lips but not too close to the ears. Avoid the cheekbones or the lower part of the face as those areas can be intimate for some. Social kisses should be fast and given with the corner of your lips. It is best to avoid loud sound effects.
4) Hand kissing etiquette
Nowadays, hand kissing is not very common. However, some men still perform it as a formal sign of respect and admiration. In general, hand kissing was reserved for married women. It was uncommon to kiss the hand of young unmarried females.
According to hand-kissing etiquette, the man bows to the woman’s hand. However, the man’s lips should not touch the woman’s hand nor make any sound. The bow should last between 1 and 2 seconds.
5) Social kissing varies based on local customs
Countries, regions, and even social circles or families may have very different social kissing customs. For example, in Spain, it is common to greet someone with 3 kisses, even when meeting for the first time. In other countries, social kissing is frowned upon. Thus, on most occasions, it is best to observe others and mirror their behavior.
6) How to avoid a kiss
The most effective way to avoid a kiss is to signal that you prefer a handshake. Extend a straight arm and offer to shake hands. The other person should take the cue. Thus, you should never kiss someone who is extending a hand.
Social kissing etiquette on specific occasions
Kissing etiquette with heavy make up
An air kiss is most appropriate among people wearing make-up.
Kissing etiquette with a beard
Beards can irritate someone’s skin. Thus, an air kiss is most appropriate for someone with a beard.
Kissing etiquette at work
The most appropriate behavior at work is to avoid social kissing altogether. One of the crucial factors in business etiquette is to keep personal and professional separate. Thus, it is best to avoid any action that can imply some sort of intimacy, such as social kissing or touching.
Social kissing etiquette: the worst mistakes
The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors.
A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.
Avoid the worst social kissing etiquette mistakes.
- 10/10. Kissing someone who is uncomfortable with it.
- 10/10. Kissing someone who offered a handshake.
- 7/10. Kissing in an inappropriate way.
- 7/10. Making loud sounds while kissing.
- 7/10. Kissing someone at an inappropriate time.
- The right way to kiss: directionality bias in head-turning during kissing: nature.com