Saturday, 2 April 2011

French Kissing...

Anyone who has moved around in Europe has experienced it: that awkward moment of greeting a person from another country, when someone is left hanging, expecting a second/third/fourth kiss on the cheek. 

As a teenager visiting France I was introduced to the concept of the two kisses on the cheek, a novel and bewildering experience for a young Brit. After several mornings of the rather pretentious air-kissing with an entire class of French schoolgirls, I became acutely aware of the importance of remembering to brush your teeth when abroad! Later, moving to Brussels, I was embarrassed to be left hanging repeatedly, until I eventually found out that, of course, in Belgium only one kiss is necessary. 

However, this is not merely a question of Brits adapting to continental life and kissing personal space goodbye. Among other Europeans there appears to be confusion as to exactly how many kisses are to be anticipated. Even now, accustomed to the traditional two kisses in Spain - and foolishly assuming that I had sussed the European ways - I met my friend’s parents from Luxembourg a few weeks ago, expecting two kisses as I greeted them, only to discover that a third kiss was required. Yet another awkward moment.

When my boyfriend visited me last month in Madrid and was introduced to my work colleagues, he was taken aback to find himself for the next three minutes being kissed on each cheek by every single female member of the office! His girlfriend was a lot more amused by the situation than he was...
Similarly my sister, in Paris a few years ago ,was traumatized as we walked home one evening, to find a strapping young Frenchman on a dark street come and kiss her, not just on one cheek but two. He turned out to be a colleague of mine from the restaurant I worked in.

For a Brit who is used to their own personal space, European greetings can come as quite a surprise. So, before you go travelling unsuspectingly around Europe – beware!  It is unbelievably easy to offend perfect strangers all over Europe by miscalculating such a simple affair as how many kisses. One, two, three, four...? Well, that depends who you meet...

1 comment:

  1. Haha brilliant - that had slipped my memory!!