Manners & Misdemeanors

Kissing Etiquette: How Do You Greet Someone You've Just Met?

A handshake? One kiss or two?
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You lean in to greet your friend with a kiss on the cheek while he goes in for a hug. You both pause mid-air or you land your platonic peck somewhere near his ear and apologize afterward. It is an Awkward Social Dance. 

The First Encounter

When meeting someone for the first time, hold out your hand and go for a handshake. You have not known that person long enough for you to be making facial contact with each other. It’s the safest and most universally accepted form of greeting and also saves you the time and trouble when navigating through a crowd of strangers.

Grip the acquaintance’s hand firmly, but do not squeeze. Etiquette expert Alex Frampton says, “For a good handshake, put your palm and thumb out straight so your hands connect well.” You will also get a “much better result out of a good handshake and good eye contact and a smile, than a little kiss on the cheek.”

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Of course, there are instances when a social kiss is appropriate during a first encounter. In the fashion world or when being introduced to a long-lost family member, you may go in for the cheek kiss. Assess the situation and the environment in which you two are introduced in and go from there.  

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*In France, at least two kisses are given. The number of kisses depends on the region
**Social etiquette in Spain dictates that only men kiss women

Beso or beso-beso?

The beso, which translates to “kiss” in Spanish, has become the primary gesture for greeting friends and loved ones in Manila, yet its unsaid rules remain a mystery to many. It's a display of intimacy between two parties, thus differentiating it from the stiffer handshake. Curiously, some believe that offering two kisses is a less intimate act than one peck on the cheek. The single kiss is reserved for close friends, family, and lovers. Remember this: two is a greeting, one is an act of affection.

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Two kisses are not as common in the Philippines, so the number depends on your culture. When meeting a foreigner, perhaps someone from France or Argentina where they tend to land more than one kiss, allow them to make the first move if you aren’t sure. Don’t try to plant one on someone from Japan. Offering a bow is enough.

To ease your way into that beso, here are a few tips:

1. In any case, the general rule is to come in from your left and kiss the receiver’s right cheek first. Not everyone got this memo so be prepared to change direction at any second. It pays to remember that in France, they drive on the wrong side of the road, so their kisses start from the opposite as well.

2. Make your intentions clear so the receiver isn’t surprised when you’re suddenly inches away from his face.

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3. Air kisses are a no-no. They seem superficial and defeat the purpose of this intimate act. 

4. Avoid leaving traces of saliva or lipstick on another’s cheek. That’s just unsanitary.

5. Hold off on the kissing sounds. Mwah-mwahs come off as distasteful and insincere.


Suppose you had a lovely time chatting with a colleague you just met and after an hour of laughing at each other’s jokes, you feel like you’ve found a sister in her. In this instance—and it should be mutual—express how you had such a nice time meeting her by rewarding her with a goodbye kiss.

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About The Author
Hannah Lazatin
Features Editor
Hannah is originally from Pampanga and from a big, close-knit family who likes to find a reason to get together at the dinner table. Experiences inspire her. “Once, at a restaurant, I received an interpretation of my second name ‘Celina,’ and it meant 'someone who tries everything once' and that is me through and through,” she says. As for the job, she wants her “readers to be inspired by the stories of the people we feature and to move them to reach for greater things.”
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