31st March 2014

Awkward greetings.

Weddings bring a variety of people together. Some close friends, distant relatives, strangers or a spouse of a friend that, just-so-happens to be an immigrant and not fully aware of the greeting etiquette, like me. Hello accidental smack on the lips.

I’m more than familiar with a ‘hey ya’ll’, I’m even of fan of the handshake, or the occasional fist bump, the side hug is no stranger but this kissing thing is a whole new world. Imagine a fish out of water flopping around not really sure how this is going to go down and you’ve got muwah.

After seeing more and more of the world Mr.Walt seems more accurate and it really is becoming a small world after all. I can imagine that greetings used to stay contained within a specific culture, region and nationality but now it’s a melting pot of various different people from all around the world.

So today I bring to you my expat guide of greetings and all you need to know before encountering any of the following. This is sure to aid in the prevention of your accidental kiss.

cheek kiss

The handshake meets hug. 

No doubt you’ve come across this one. That moment when your entering or exiting a conversation and you go in for the handshake and the opponent meets you with a hug. You try to play it off and drop the hand but it’s now wedge against someone else’s abdomen and there’s no way to hide it.

The side hug & pat. 

This was once presented as the church hug. A ‘safe’ way to give a friendly hello with not too closely invading someones bubble. Know what I mean? I learned in an etiquette class that this is the most appropriate way to say hello/goodbye to a person of the opposite sex. So when I greet someone to this day it’s always in the back of my mind. Until they go in for a bear hug and then we’ve got yet another awkward, fish out of water thingy again.

The cheek kiss.

Hello British greeting. We just don’t tend to do this in the south but here it’s standard people. I also quickly learned that it’s not actually a cheek kiss but rather an ‘air’ kiss. You make the sound but not actually touch the cheek. Sounds fairly simple right!? Not when you both go to the left or both head for the right. Hello head butt.

My personal cringe moment – the kiss, kiss, kiss!

This is the newest greeting and apparently the new trend here. As if the cheeky air kisses weren’t enough it’s now a repetition of three air kisses before you can catch your breath. Necessary? I’m not so sure – I think two paints the picture just fine but who am I to say right?

In attempt to avoid these cringe worthy moments consider the following.

1. Never assume someone is overly affectionate or you might find your hands or lips invading their personal space and nobody wants that. Although I’m pretty sure it  would be something to use in a ‘what’s the most embarrassing thing Q&A and would make for ace blogging material.

2. Follow their lead. This is my tactic and as women we can often get a way with this one. If they hold out their hand there’s no second guessing and if they come in for the cheeks well you just go the way they don’t.

3. Be culturally aware. I mean if I ever get to meet the queen. I’m already prepared to curtsy and never handshake because it’s a likely situation and all. Grinning. Make yourself aware of traditions and the culture to avoid accidental occurrences.

4. Laugh it off.  At the end of the day they’ve probably had an awkward hello a time or two so have a little laugh and appreciate the differences. This was my motto for said wedding weekend.

Please tell me I’m not alone?? Leave your awkward moments in the comments below.

  • Agh so glad you addressed this! Seriously so awkward! I can’t help but laugh thinking back to my first Europe experiences.

  • So not alone!! My hubby’s boss is from Belgium & we invited them to spend Christmas Eve with us because we didn’t want them to be alone. Our goodbye was painfully awkward. They do the two air kiss thing & I’m a southern hugged for sure. Let’s just say I was embarrassed to see them the next time….

    Thankfully, we all had time to laugh it off 🙂

  • Girllll, I love this post!!! I am so incredibly awkward greeting people… SO awkward!! I try to keep my distance so people can’t tell that I am TERRIBLE at hugs lol

  • I’m a hugger… however I sometimes cannot tell right away if someone is not a “touchy” person.. Also, I lived in Brazil for 4 1/2 months and they do the air kiss also. I got sooo used to it that when I came back to the USA I had caught myself several times going for that.

  • Ahhh, I had a super awkward hug thing occur this past week. At work, we are pretty friendly, and I ran into the children’s pastor. Well, I could tell he was coming in for a hug but then he changed his mind, but too late because I started in for a hug but then changed my mind, so we were doing this weird dance as we were trying to decide if we were going to hug or not. Then we ended by doing this weird side-hug, and I hit my chin on his shoulder. Yikes.


  • hahah!! I totally get this!! I had so many awkward kiss moments when I lived in Italy! hahah

  • Oh my gosh I love this! The kisses are so awkward to me! They do three, and sometimes even four kisses in the France/Switzerland area. Some people will actually say trois or quatre as they’re going in for the kiss to let you know how many they plan to do. I’d rather just stick with a handshake!

  • Augh! I HATE the awkward kiss greetings!!! I have a creepy uncle who kisses my cheek when he sees me and I always want to tell him that we’re not that close. 😉

  • I like this post! And I love your blog! Followed you here. I hope you’d check my blog too and follow-back. 🙂


  • How interesting! I guess I’ve never thought about how awkward that would be to not fully know how someone is going to greet you!

  • That is so funny – I have definitely had these happen to me – and i try to just laugh it off…not sure what i’d do if I accidentally went for the check the same time they went for mine – bam kiss…yikes!

  • LOL! I have definitely had some ackward moments with greetings… The side cheek kiss one isn’t overly common around here but there are definitely a fair share of people that do it. So it’s just getting through that ackward stage of who does and who doesn’t. Haha! Oh and at my work, I don’t do much for hugs let alone cheek kisses… it’s more of a handshake thing. But those moments where a customer goes beyond a handshakes its like whoooaaa! Ackward! Bahaha! 🙂

  • haha this is fantastic! If I have met someone only a few times before, I never know what do to – I usually go in for the hug and so far it hasn’t backfired yet!