How to air kiss

How to air kiss

How to air kiss

Ever thought back to one of your more awkward introductions and felt a hot flush of shame? Lean in for a kiss when they are going for a handshake and you end up with their fist in your waist. Aim for a hug when they wanted to peck your cheek and you might end up with an accidental kiss on the lips.

The pitfalls of greeting etiquette are getting ever more complicated in our ultra-connected world, where French, Chinese, American and Malaysian businesspeople get together for a week of meetings and have absolutely no idea how to say hello. “It’s definitely pretty hard to remember,” says AI expert Stephanie Sy. “Whenever I travel for work, I always feel like I’m about to mess up. I know the rules at home in Manila, but anywhere else—particularly in Europe—and I’m lost.”

If you’ve made some of these embarrassing mistakes, you’re not alone. And it’s not your fault—this stuff is hard. Two Frenchwomen working in fashion are going to greet each other with a double air kiss. Two American bankers will shake hands. Two Japanese businessmen might bow with respect. But what happens if you work across industries and countries? We’ve spoken to two etiquette experts to get some answers.

When it comes to etiquette, there is no greater source than Debrett’s—an authority on how to behave in polite society since 1769. Founded in London, it has spent three centuries providing the people of Britain with invaluable advice. Hence why we turned to Jo Bryant, a long-time Debrett’s contributor and the editor of some of its recent guides, for advice.

We also spoke to Agnes Ho of Singapore’s Etiquette and Image International Company, which specialises in different greetings from around Asia, in both business and social situations. She is an introduction guru, who knows how to shake hands in either the Middle Eastern or Western way (the Arab way is gentler and longer than the tight grips of the US), when to do a namaste in India or a wai in Thailand (and when not to) and more.

The Industry

Media is more relaxed than management. Art is more air kiss than acquisitions. This we know. But what to do if you’re greeting the director of a publishing company or a top art buyer? “The safest option is just to go with a handshake,” says Bryant. “It’s the most usual greeting when meeting someone, and when saying goodbye, whether they’re male or female. Some artistic and creative industries are definitely more ‘kissy’ but for formal business, social kissing is inappropritate. If in doubt professionally, always begin with a handshake.”

How do we greet that colleague or person we follow on social media but have never actually met – two air kisses? One kiss and a weird half-hug? If you’re worried, stick out your hand with confidence. Nobody can misconstrue that.

The Country

You may have worked out how to behave at home, but the moment you hop on a plane, you’re back to the drawing board again. Luckily Agnes Ho has a handy guide:

Thailand
Wai. Prayer pose with palm to palm close to the heart.

India
Namaste. Prayer pose with palm to palm close to the heart.

Philippines
Mano Po. The less senior of the two will hold the more senior’s hand and bow his forehead toward the back of his/her palm.

Europe
Air kisses. Lips do not touch the cheeks and just an empty “muack” whisper next the right cheek.

Spain, Italy, France, UK
Two kisses.

Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Russia
Three kisses.

Japan
Bow before a handshake. The more junior in rank and age should bow more deeply than the more senior.

New Zealand
Hongi, Maori. Touch one nose to the other.

air-kiss

Pronunciation /e(ə)r kis/ /ɛ(ə)r kɪs/

transitive verb

Purse the lips as if kissing (someone), without making contact.

  • ‘In Paris, where he keeps a flat and several relatives, he bobs from bar to bar, air-kissing girls and gossiping with old restaurant hands.’
  • ‘Lizzie air-kissed her and walked in the apartment with Mark.’
  • ‘My mom was reading a romance novel in the kitchen when I arrived home, promptly air-kissed me and asked how my work was.’
  • ‘Maxine leaned forward and air-kissed her, and Chloe dutifully reciprocated.’
  • ‘She air-kissed us, which from anyone else would’ve been completely moronic but from her was kind of sweet.’
  • ‘Usually my compromise is to air-kiss them (ie go ‘mwah’ close to the cheek), or simply touch my cheek to theirs.’
  • ‘Lizzie greeted him with a heavy French accent as she air-kissed Mark. ‘Who’s your friend?’
  • ‘Spectrum Fine Art is shunning the usual launch party etiquette by banning guests from air-kissing and calling each other ‘darling’.’
  • ‘They wouldn’t have been big on air-kissing in working-class, coal-mining Pontypridd, where he grew up.’
  • ‘Some people are only up for an elaborate piece of mime, also known as air-kissing.’
  • ‘It’s gratifying to know that the two have air-kissed and made up.’
  • ‘Most of the ‘socialites for charity’ brigade throws glitzy dinners to raise money, where social butterflies wave about their diamond-laden hands as they air-kiss with glee and circulate, leaving behind a trail of expensive perfume.’
  • ‘Students with upper crust English accents and preppy shirts air-kiss before descending on Edinburgh’s Rick’s Bar for cocktails.’
  • ‘Apply Vaseline to your lips wherever and whenever, and air-kiss at any occasion.’
  • ‘I cheat and air-kiss, which feels silly but frankly is all I can manage.’
  • ‘Guys and girls hugged, waved, air-kissed, and grudgingly slouched toward their classrooms.’
  • ‘‘Hola Señora Jamison,’ Brian greeted her, rising to grab her hands and air kiss her cheek.’
  • ‘At 1pm on a Sunday, in West London’s fashionable Bush Bar and Grill, three women and five children congregate and air kiss.’
  • ‘If you like to mingle and air kiss your way through the crowd then you have a found a place to call home.’
  • ‘This is the original home of the beautiful people, where 60 year old men are draped by models, rich Italians air kiss everyone and 6 foot blondes are around every corner.’

A simulated kiss, without physical contact.

Help! I was air-kissing and ended up butting noses. That was awkward and embarrassing.

I just got a promotion as regional director for one of Canada’s leading retailers. I am a 26-year-old woman. Eastern Canada is my region.

The incident happened during my first road trip with my boss, when he introduced me to one of our senior store managers. I put out my hand, he looked in my eyes and then quickly shifted to my right cheek. He pulled me in to peck, not only once but twice, on each cheek. I was surprised. Startled, I moved and it caused a nose collision. The manager and my boss laughed while I nervously giggled.

What is the protocol on air-kissing, who goes first and on which side? Better yet, how do I avoid this altogether?

In our multicultural country, your question is relevant. There are all kinds of greetings out there, including these funny versions of the handshake by Oatmeal. Any one of those could also present a Sticky Situation.

These days, the global contemporary workplace’s universal greeting of choice is still the handshake.

The folkloric beginnings of this salutation are credited to knights. As they acknolwedged one another and sealed agreements, they grasped each other’s right hand; the preferred hand of choice for the use of weapons. By gripping each other, they confirmed the absence of daggers and ultimately intentions of goodwill.

To this day, this peace symbol is still the prized photograph by paparazzi during any world leaders’ meeting.

Canada’s modern business society recognizes everyone as equal, without gender or cultural distinctions. Hence, all should generally shake hands.

Now for the Sticky Situation, what do you do when someone puckers up and is going for an air-kiss?

The general guideline for etiquette is: “when in Rome do as Romans do.”

With that in mind you may wish to adapt your usual business greeting. Follow your host’s lead and air-kiss in the arts world, when visiting socially in French Canada or when it is the custom within the organization.

To maintain a professional demeanour, you can also choose to re-establish the balance by not leaning in and presenting your right hand. Yes, it will be awkward. But, if that is how you feel most comfortable when greeting your business connections, it is acceptable. Make sure to carry on positively so as not to stretch the malaise.

As far as the air-kiss protocol goes, it should be:

  1. Lean in to the left.
  2. Almost make right-cheek-to-right-cheek contact.
  3. Purse your lips and kiss the air.
  4. Repeat to the right.
  5. End heart-to-heart.

In business, avoid full contact and “smooching” sounds.

The origins of la bise are related to physical well-being. Family members, greeting each other, could detect digestive or health problems based on the smell of the body or the breath.

Now that you know the step-by-step guide for air-kissing, forget about it. Really. Most people are not aware of it. You just have to wait, observe and go with the flow. Voilà! C’est la vie.

You have a sticky situation at work or home? This is your forum. Write to Julie and she will reply promptly. Want more solutions to sticky situations? Go to Facebook,Twitter and order your autographed copy of Etiquette: Confidence & Credibility. Planning a conference? Julie happily travels coast to coast and beyond, to present customized activities.

I love qustions like this!

I do it right cheek first, no lips actually touching – just cheeks and no smacky noises

Our Italian friend rarely actually kisses the cheek, but I think it’s a matter of how well you know the person. The better you know them the more actual contact you make. Never thought of which side first. I think it’s sorta like when someone comes towards you to kiss or peck on the lips, you just have to read body language. A verbal sound of “kissing” with a small smack is how we greet our friend, but that’s because we know him well. Someone you don’t know well would be overwhelmed by that. It really becomes more of a side to side, cheek to cheek quick greeting without a lot of fanfare.

That’s my take on it, anyway.

answers for France:

first : it depends where you are in France. In grenoble,k savoie, it’s 2 kisses, paris does 4, provence usually 3. rest of France : I don’t know

second : girls kisses girls and boys, boyes kisses girl, boys doesn’t kiss boys (unless some exeption to the rules of course ;-))
You usually kiss people you are on a “tu” base with, if you are introduced to the friend of a friend, the same age range as you.

Start to pull your head on your right, your left cheek on his/her left cheek.

do no put your lips on the cheek. cheek can touch, but not necessarly. You can do the smack noise with your lips, not too loud. Some people will put there hand on your shoulder.

Celine, I just talked with a friend of mine who’s a native Parisian. Her take on it is that it’s twice in Paris and three in the country; she said she and her friends and family always just did twice, but with her husband’s family in Poitou it was three. However, that it would probably vary with age, location and class. Age because things change (obviously if Grenoble and Savoie are two) and it has been a while since she lived in France (though she returns fairly often). So I guess you take your clue from who you’re with. In Paris I remember three, but now that I think about it, none of my friends were Parisians, rather students from other locations.

In Angers in 1991, it was four. There were five of us in the family I lived with and three of the kids’ friends came in–think about it. It took about a half an hour for everyone to greet everyone. (I didn’t know these kids from Adam’s off ox either, but I got the treatment, too.)

How to air kiss

Bonjour! (Kiss, kiss, kiss)*
Hey! (hug)
Hello. Nice to meet you. (right hand extended, waist level)
* language and number of kisses may vary

These appear to be the accepted Western greeting rituals. But which to use? With whom? When? And how are they properly executed? It’s no big deal until you screw it up. One moment is all it takes to go from potentially interesting person to totally awkward inept proto-caveman. That first impression is everything, right?

As an expat, this issue comes up frequently.

Take the first time I delivered Brendan to the carpool point for his out-of-village soccer match, the year we were here on sabbatical. Turns out this was not a simple drop-off. Oh, no.
People pulled up in their cars and then got out. The kids went around the whole parking lot kissing everybody – kiss, kiss, kiss. Left cheek, right cheek, left cheek. The adults also went around the parking lot kissing each other. The men shook each others’ hands. But the women got to kiss and be kissed by absolutely everyone. Anyone new came in, they got out and made the rounds. They stayed out of their cars until everyone was there and had been properly greeted.

It was 7:30 am! I was barely functional. I’d thrown on a pair of sweats, my hair was tied back in a hasty ponytail, and I had coffee-breath. I was horrified. I knew they all kissed each other at matches. But the carpool drop-off? Sweet Jesus, what planet have I landed on? I stayed in the shelter of the car, the only parent not to exit, hoping no one would notice me as I tried to be very still and small behind the wheel.

I discussed this a while ago with my friend and fellow ex-pat Liz, who has been here a lot longer than I have. Which cheek do you offer first? Do you touch their cheek with your lips? Do you touch their arm, too, or just offer your face?

She laughed knowingly. That’s how they check out what perfume you’re wearing. Perfume? That had never occurred to me.

There are some men who try to sneak a real kiss in there, too, she said. You have to be on the lookout, and offer them “air kisses” instead (see below).

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1. You don’t kiss with sunglasses on. A good rule of thumb is if someone is removing glasses as he/she approaches you, a kiss is in the offing. Best not to extend your hand at that point unless you really don’t want the kiss.

2. Men don’t usually kiss other men unless they’re really good friends. They shake hands. Even teenagers greet each other formally like this. (The girls all get kissed, though.)

3. As far as I can tell, you offer your left cheek first. The French kiss twice, the French-Swiss thrice. But apparently some French people kiss as many as four times. Depends on a multitude of factors. Context is everything.

4. After extensive experimentation, I think it’s best not to actually kiss the person’s cheek, but just make a light smacking sound in the air next to it. The distance that should be maintained between your cheeks is also debatable. In this regard, it’s much more sanitary than hand-shaking because cheeks aren’t exposed to the same stuff as hands.

5. I still haven’t figured out whether you touch the person at all, or whether you just lean in to kiss. A good friend might grab your shoulder(s) warmly as you greet each other. Others shake hands and kiss at the same time.

6. If you meet somebody in the middle of a run and you’re really sweaty (or if you’re sick), you just kiss the air three times, turning your head a little between kisses. This is the “air kiss.”

7. The first time you meet someone, you don’t kiss, you shake hands. However, you don’t have to know someone very well at all to be expected to kiss him/her when meeting in a social context. I haven’t yet figured out when this transition takes place. This makes for many an awkward moment.

8. As an American, sometimes you can get away with shaking hands in situations where other people are kissing, without seeming too rude. I do this in crowded social settings where the potential kissing overwhelms me.

9. Authority seems to play a role – you don’t kiss your kids’ teachers or your boss or your kids’ soccer coaches, unless you’re in a social setting and you have passed the kiss-no kiss transition point with them (which, as I pointed out above, I have not yet figured out).

10. Beards present their own special issues. I really enjoy seeing my friend Greg, but I always cringe when my cheek hits his beard.

11. You don’t just make the rounds kissing people when you arrive somewhere, you also have to kiss them all when you leave. No sneaky exits allowed. If you happen to be the hostess of a large dinner party, you get a lot of kisses. Best to put on some good perfume.

12. Speaking of making the rounds, when greeting a group of people, it seems that the protocol is to kiss the ones you know and shake hands with the ones you don’t know. The downside of this is that the more people you meet, the more kiss- no kiss transitions you have to try and figure out later on. But that’s no reason to become a recluse. Get out there and pucker up.

13. Don’t assume just because another person is not Swiss, they won’t follow local customs. Most of my American ex-pat friends here greet each other with kisses (see Greg, above). The members of my writing group – none of whom is native Swiss – kiss each other when meeting and again upon leaving.

14. If in doubt, a handshake is always okay. Not the lengthy American oscillating version, just a single pump. And pay attention to the grip – you shouldn’t be aiming to either break bones or give a limp fish impression.

There are, like I mentioned above, endless ways to screw up. But the lovely thing about the Swiss is that they’re so understanding. Nobody here will label you an impolite oaf just because you screw up your kisses a few times. You have to work harder to earn that moniker.

The other night we had Marc’s entire lab group over for dinner, plus a couple of American guests. I kissed about half of them, had a few half-handshake-half-kisses, shook hands with the rest, and one of the American visitors gave me a hug. And it was all okay with me.

Help! I got air-kissed and ended up butting noses. That was awkward and embarrassing…

The incident happened during my first road trip with my boss, when he introduced me to one of our senior store managers. I put out my hand, he looked in my eyes and then quickly shifted to my right cheek. He pulled me in to peck, not only once but twice, on each cheek. I was surprised. Startled, I moved and it caused a nose collision. The manager and my boss laughed while I nervously giggled.

What is the protocol on air-kissing, who goes first and on which side? Better yet, how do I avoid this altogether?

In our multicultural country, your question is relevant. There are all kinds of greetings out there, including these funny versions of the handshake by Oatmeal. Any one of those could also present a Sticky Situation.

In 2013, the global contemporary workplace’s universal greeting of choice is still the handshake.

The folkloric beginnings of this salutation are credited to knights. As they acknolwedged one another and sealed agreements, they grasped each other’s right hand; the preferred hand of choice for the use of weapons. By gripping each other, they confirmed the absence of daggers and ultimately intentions of goodwill.

To this day, this peace symbol is still the prized photograph by paparazzi during any world leaders’ meeting.

Canada’s modern business society recognizes everyone as equal, without gender or cultural distinctions. Hence, all should generally shake hands.

Now for the Sticky Situation, what do you do when someone puckers up and is going for an air-kiss?

The general guideline for etiquette is: “When in Rome do as Romans do.”

With that in mind you may wish to adapt your usual business greeting. Follow your host’s lead and air-kiss in the arts world, when visiting socially in French Canada or when it is the custom within the organization.

To maintain a professional demeanour, you can also choose to re-establish the balance by not leaning in and presenting your right hand. Yes, it will be awkward. But, if that is how you feel most comfortable when greeting your business connections, it is acceptable. Make sure to carry on positively so as not to stretch the malaise.

As far as the air-kiss protocol goes, it should be:

  1. Lean in to the left.
  2. Almost make right-cheek-to-right-cheek contact.
  3. Purse your lips and kiss the air.
  4. Repeat to the right.
  5. End heart-to-heart.

In business, avoid full contact and “smooching” sounds.

The origins of la bise are related to physical well-being. Family members, greeting each other, could detect digestive or health problems based on the smell of the body or the breath.

Now that you know the step-by-step guide for air-kissing, forget about it. Really. Most people are not aware of it. You just have to wait, observe and go with the flow. Voilà! C’est la vie.

I love qustions like this!

I do it right cheek first, no lips actually touching – just cheeks and no smacky noises

Our Italian friend rarely actually kisses the cheek, but I think it’s a matter of how well you know the person. The better you know them the more actual contact you make. Never thought of which side first. I think it’s sorta like when someone comes towards you to kiss or peck on the lips, you just have to read body language. A verbal sound of “kissing” with a small smack is how we greet our friend, but that’s because we know him well. Someone you don’t know well would be overwhelmed by that. It really becomes more of a side to side, cheek to cheek quick greeting without a lot of fanfare.

That’s my take on it, anyway.

answers for France:

first : it depends where you are in France. In grenoble,k savoie, it’s 2 kisses, paris does 4, provence usually 3. rest of France : I don’t know

second : girls kisses girls and boys, boyes kisses girl, boys doesn’t kiss boys (unless some exeption to the rules of course ;-))
You usually kiss people you are on a “tu” base with, if you are introduced to the friend of a friend, the same age range as you.

Start to pull your head on your right, your left cheek on his/her left cheek.

do no put your lips on the cheek. cheek can touch, but not necessarly. You can do the smack noise with your lips, not too loud. Some people will put there hand on your shoulder.

Celine, I just talked with a friend of mine who’s a native Parisian. Her take on it is that it’s twice in Paris and three in the country; she said she and her friends and family always just did twice, but with her husband’s family in Poitou it was three. However, that it would probably vary with age, location and class. Age because things change (obviously if Grenoble and Savoie are two) and it has been a while since she lived in France (though she returns fairly often). So I guess you take your clue from who you’re with. In Paris I remember three, but now that I think about it, none of my friends were Parisians, rather students from other locations.

In Angers in 1991, it was four. There were five of us in the family I lived with and three of the kids’ friends came in–think about it. It took about a half an hour for everyone to greet everyone. (I didn’t know these kids from Adam’s off ox either, but I got the treatment, too.)

Help! I was air-kissing and ended up butting noses. That was awkward and embarrassing.

I just got a promotion as regional director for one of Canada’s leading retailers. I am a 26-year-old woman. Eastern Canada is my region.

The incident happened during my first road trip with my boss, when he introduced me to one of our senior store managers. I put out my hand, he looked in my eyes and then quickly shifted to my right cheek. He pulled me in to peck, not only once but twice, on each cheek. I was surprised. Startled, I moved and it caused a nose collision. The manager and my boss laughed while I nervously giggled.

What is the protocol on air-kissing, who goes first and on which side? Better yet, how do I avoid this altogether?

In our multicultural country, your question is relevant. There are all kinds of greetings out there, including these funny versions of the handshake by Oatmeal. Any one of those could also present a Sticky Situation.

These days, the global contemporary workplace’s universal greeting of choice is still the handshake.

The folkloric beginnings of this salutation are credited to knights. As they acknolwedged one another and sealed agreements, they grasped each other’s right hand; the preferred hand of choice for the use of weapons. By gripping each other, they confirmed the absence of daggers and ultimately intentions of goodwill.

To this day, this peace symbol is still the prized photograph by paparazzi during any world leaders’ meeting.

Canada’s modern business society recognizes everyone as equal, without gender or cultural distinctions. Hence, all should generally shake hands.

Now for the Sticky Situation, what do you do when someone puckers up and is going for an air-kiss?

The general guideline for etiquette is: “when in Rome do as Romans do.”

With that in mind you may wish to adapt your usual business greeting. Follow your host’s lead and air-kiss in the arts world, when visiting socially in French Canada or when it is the custom within the organization.

To maintain a professional demeanour, you can also choose to re-establish the balance by not leaning in and presenting your right hand. Yes, it will be awkward. But, if that is how you feel most comfortable when greeting your business connections, it is acceptable. Make sure to carry on positively so as not to stretch the malaise.

As far as the air-kiss protocol goes, it should be:

  1. Lean in to the left.
  2. Almost make right-cheek-to-right-cheek contact.
  3. Purse your lips and kiss the air.
  4. Repeat to the right.
  5. End heart-to-heart.

In business, avoid full contact and “smooching” sounds.

The origins of la bise are related to physical well-being. Family members, greeting each other, could detect digestive or health problems based on the smell of the body or the breath.

Now that you know the step-by-step guide for air-kissing, forget about it. Really. Most people are not aware of it. You just have to wait, observe and go with the flow. Voilà! C’est la vie.

You have a sticky situation at work or home? This is your forum. Write to Julie and she will reply promptly. Want more solutions to sticky situations? Go to Facebook,Twitter and order your autographed copy of Etiquette: Confidence & Credibility. Planning a conference? Julie happily travels coast to coast and beyond, to present customized activities.