The Guide to Cheek Kissing: How To Cheek Kiss Across the World
Ah, the cheek kiss. The greeting of sophistication from around the world. But how to do it? When is appropriate? Is it one cheek, or two? Do we start with a left, or right? Can anybody give a cheek kiss? Here is our guide to the cheek kiss as a greeting!
Spain, Portugal, and Italy: The Romantics
Spain, Portugal, and Italy all favor the two cheek approach, though there are some subtle differences you should be aware of. For Spain and Portugal, you should go in for the right cheek first, whereas it’s the left first for Italians.
And you should also be aware of who does all this kissing! For Spain and Portugal, it’s typical for women to cheek kiss both men and women in greeting, though for men to only do this to women. Though in Spain, men may cheek kiss one another in congratulation when they are close friends or family.
Italians are much more liberal with their kisses and anyone can cheek kiss anyone else! Though be aware of what a kiss generally entails; this is usually the brushing of the cheeks together accompanied by the sound of a kiss, rather than actually planting one. Judge the recipient of your kisses before you lean in, is what we’re saying!
France: Cheek Kissing Varies
We aren’t for a moment insinuating the French are not romantic. It is only that their cheek kissing customs vary so widely that they deserve a section of their own. The number of kisses is different depending on where you are in the country and don’t expect anything as limiting as two unless you’re in Paris. If you’re visiting Burgundy, you might get four, and in Corsica, it could be five! Get the chapstick out, we have a lot of smooching to do!
And as for who you should or shouldn’t kiss, well, everyone can cheek kiss just about everyone. Though men kissing men in greeting is far more common in the south of France than it is in the north.
Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland: They Also Cheek Kiss!
If you at least vaguely know the person you are greeting in the Netherlands, Belgium, or Switzerland, your cheek kisses should total three and start with the right cheek. Women kiss everyone, men only kiss women for all three countries, yet you might sneak in some cheek kisses between men if you are in the Francophone part of Belgium.
Latin America: The Region of Cheek Kisses
Possibly the friendliest place in the world you might want to go to to be greeted! Cheek kissing is a fairly universal form of greeting in most Latin American countries. In Argentina, you’ll get both a hug and a cheek kiss no matter who you are. And depending on the region you’re visiting, in Brazil, you might get cheek-kissed up to three times—by anyone! This is even true of business meetings once the initial introductions have been made.
Cheek kisses are predominantly from women to everyone else, and from men to women. Though in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, cheek kisses are common between men as greetings or in congratulations.
Cheek kissing is fairly common throughout the Middle East. If you are in Turkey this is the normal form of greeting between all men and women once you’ve met at least once.
For Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Tunisia, expect cheek kisses between unrelated men and women. In Iran, though, the cheek kiss between unrelated men and women is a huge no-no, punishable by law.
Lebanon’s cheek kiss numbers depend on whether you are related to the person or not; go in for the left cheek first then kiss the right, and if this person is a family member then go back to the left for a third!
The Philippines is home to cheek kisses in greeting, though this is more of a cheek-to-cheek press than involving any lip action! Kisses should be to the right cheek and can be between women and everyone, or men and women.
In parts of Indonesia, a double cheek kiss is to be expected between everyone. Though do not assume your kisses are welcome everywhere! In parts of southeast and central Asia, such cheek kisses would be offensive. It is best to take a prompt from those around you and follow their lead instead of leaning in for an unsolicited smooch!
Happy cheek kissing, wherever you are traveling!
Editor’s note: This blog post was updated on July 27, 2021.