Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

A kiss is just a kiss (unless it’s a greeting)

A kiss is just a kiss (unless it’s a greeting)
The Europeans are known for their kissing. And while the French are most famous for the intimate variety, the Italians seem to own the act of kissing as a greeting. Whether it’s on the lips, the cheek, or the head, once, twice or thrice, knowing how, when and how much to kiss an acquaintance can be a minefield for the uninitiated.

The golden rule should always be ‘stick to what you know’. While many Italians will greet each other with a form of kiss, it varies widely from region to region. Getting it wrong is worse than not doing it at all, so if you’re unsure, stick to a handshake.
If you’re doing the cheek kiss, it’s generally just two, one on each cheek. Whether you start on the left, or the right, depends on the region, so best observe those around you before trying. Though it’s called a kiss, in reality, the act is usually more of a ‘cheek press’. Only let your lips kiss someone’s cheek if you know them very well and don’t be tempted to make the kissing noise as you do it.

However you greet, you should always say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ with the same gesture – mixing it up gets confusing. But don’t worry, if you’re set on injecting a bit of passion in your greetings, you’ll pick it up in no time.