Which cheek and how many? In Europe and beyond, a kiss isn’t just a kiss

In the English-speaking world, friends and family generally greet each other with a wave, handshake or hug, depending on their degree of intimacy. In France and other countries, however, the kiss is more common – not on the lips, but a symmetrical brush of the cheeks.

The image is well known in world culture and is a part of everyday life in much of Europe, but the ritual can seem impenetrable to the uninitiated. Would you kiss someone the same way in Marseilles as in Madrid? Which cheek should you present first? And how many kisses?

For my upcoming book, “Do You Speak the French Language(s)?”, I collected information about how French is spoken via an online system. It allowed me to identify the prevalence and range of a number of regional expressions, including the classic “pain au chocolat” versus “chocolatine” debate: In English, one simply says “chocolate croissant,” but the question is trickier in France. There’s also the vexing question of how the French refer to a pencil, not as simple as you’d think.

To better understand the question of how one greets a friend or family member with a kiss in Europe, I decided to map it.Greeting with a kiss isn’t just a ‘French thing’

First things first, while many Anglo-Saxons believe that kissing as a greeting is unique to France, the practice is common in a wide range of European and Latin countries, as well as Russia and certain Arabic and sub-Saharan nations.

Greetings before the morning Eid al-Fitr prayer in Dubai, 2002. Aziz Shah/AFP

Its origin is unknown, though 918kiss apk there are many theories. Is it a ritualized form of ancestral behavior, like sniffing each other for recognition, or is it an emotional one arising from childhood? There’s no consensus among historians, anthropologists and other experts of human behavior. The ritual appears to date back to antiquity and has known highs and lows throughout modern human history. Sometimes it was encouraged, other times forbidden.

The question becomes even more complex when one tries to understand contextual factors. There’s the event itself (saying hello, goodbye, wishing someone a happy new year, etc.), and then there’s the relationship between the people involved (it was long reserved for family members and those of the same gender). Kissing between men was once stigmatized, yet is common in certain contexts and some Slavic cultures.


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