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 cheek kisses?

Here is our guide to using the cheek kiss as a greeting!

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Spain, Portugal, and Italy: The Romantics

Spain, Portugal, and Italy all favor the double kiss 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 men only do this to women. In Spain, however, men are very generous with their cheek kisses among one another, especially with close friends or family.

Italians, unsurprisingly, are much more liberal with their cheek kisses and anyone can cheek-kiss anyone else! It is just part of Italian tradition!

France: Are Cheek Kisses Appropriate?

Though France is in a different section in this article, we aren’t for a moment insinuating that the French are not romantic. It is only that their cheek-kissing customs vary so widely that they deserve a section of their own.

In France, the right number of cheek kisses is different depending on where you are in the country. Let’s just say you shouldn’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. It is true, however, that men kissing men in greeting is far more common in the south of France than it is in the north.

A young and an older woman cheek kissing in rural Asia

Learn before you go! Every culture has different greeting norms. / photo via Flickr 

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, and men only kiss women in 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 visit to be greeted! Cheek kissing is a fairly universal form of greeting in most Latin American countries.

In Brazil, you might get cheek-kissed up to three times—by anyone! This is even true of business meetings once the initial introductions and customary Brazilian conversation starters have taken place. Amazing, right?

In Argentina, you’ll get both a hug and a noisy cheek kiss no matter who you are. However, as Carolina, one of our teachers from Buenos Aires who currently runs  , reminds us: “The Argentine kiss is so heartfelt that we only need one, usually on the right cheek. That is, of course, unless you have just won the Soccer World Cup! On special occasions like that, you can expect a bigger number of celebratory cheek kisses!”

Cheek Kisses in the Middle East

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!

Cheek Kisses in Asia

The Philippines is home to cheek kisses in greeting, though this is more of a cheek-to-cheek press than involving any lip action! In this part of the world, cheek 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!

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the cheek kiss is a fascinating and varied form of greeting that transcends cultural boundaries. From the passionate double kisses in Spain, Portugal, and Italy to the multitude of kisses in different regions of France, the cheek kiss holds different meanings and customs across the world. It is a gesture that signifies warmth, familiarity, and affection among individuals.

Woman kissing a man on the cheek at a disco

Has a cheek kiss ever caught you by surprise? / photo via Pexels

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Editor’s note: This blog post was updated on June 14, 2023.