I am wondering if there's a process for the polite greeting kiss? I am inept at it resulting in constantly screwing it up, being snubbed or snubbing someone inadvertantly and creating general awkwardness.

While my father took pains to teach me how to handshake properly nobody taught me the hello kiss. It steps into the realm of business when meeting colleagues partners at functions etc and I imagine it is a faux par on the level of forgetting your boss' kids/partners names etc.

Has anybody thought about the methodology to getting it right? How to see it coming and respond appropriately, how to initiate the kiss when called for, how to know when it is appropriate etc?

Okay questions asked, thanks for reading.


Tuatara's picture

Thank you for asking this. I know exactly what you mean. Being from a country where this has always been thought of as a little odd, it is difficult to know what is considered polite and what is not. It has got to the point that I don't kiss anyone. Just a handshake, keeping my elbow locked enough so they get the message of "Don't get any closer". I would love to hear how people deal with this issue.

xcelerator's picture
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I am an expat in Belgium on an executive management assignment. In the French-speaking Wallonne region it is customary to kiss the cheek of female employees as a greeting. As an American who learned the value of a firm handshake from my forebears, it is a foreign custom that I am still reconciling in a business environment. As to *how* to do it, it's not difficult. A simple touch of your right cheek to their right cheek is all that's necessary. I do recommend practicing if you're fortunate to have a significant other willing to understand and oblige.

In general, if you're gracious about it and openly admit you're learning, it's hard for me to imagine anyone taking offense. Try to avoid the lips and don't headbutt, of course.

- X

mkirk's picture
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 As a British man working in France I 'enjoy' this dilemma on a daily basis. I agree with Xcelerator when he says it can be treated as simply a form of learned behaviour that you can practice and become pretty confident at. However, I have found the nuances of regional and cultural difficulties make it very difficult to do in a  professional manner. One kiss? Two kisses? Four, even? And how about men kissing male colleagues? It's common in some areas.

My advice would be to stay with your handshake, understand that you need to be positive about this (your new colleague will likely also be nervously wondering what you're about to do) and don't try to be something you're not - a local. 

Of course, this is for those situations when you are interested in honest, productive, professional relationships. In more social relationships, you can be more bold. But this is probably the wrong website for that.

xcelerator's picture
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When in doubt shake hands. There's even a podcast on the site on the proper way to do it! I don't expect there will (ever) be a cast on how to effectively greet your colleague with a cheek kiss. Mark / Mike correct me if I'm wrong ...

tohm's picture

Thanks for the advice Xcelerator and MKirk.

I listened to the handshake podcast a while ago, and recall it having great insights on the 'raising the eyebrows' and 'smiling' prior to shaking hands. I guess if anyone has info on these kinds of 'signals' in order to better recieve and transmit them it would really help me out.

I just seem inept, always committing faux pars, though in Australia it tends to be in the work associated 'social' functions more than day to day business.

Thanks for the advice thus far.