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In Southern Europe it is common to give two kisses (one in each cheek) when being introduced to a woman. So when woman A meets person B (no matter if B is a he or a she), they will kiss in almost all circumstances: professional, social.

I know this is not common in other European countries, as described in When to hug, kiss, shake hands, or even “fist bump” in Europe?, but I wonder: what about in Latin America? Do they share the cheek kissing tradition with Southern Europe?

Wikipedia mentions in Cheek kissing:

In Latin America, cheek kissing is a universal form of greeting between a man and a woman or two women.

It is not necessary to know a person well or be intimate with them to kiss them on the cheek. When introduced to someone new by a mutual acquaintance in social settings, it is customary to greet him or her with a cheek kiss if the person being introduced to them is a member of the opposite sex or if a woman is introduced to another woman. If the person is a complete stranger, i.e. self-introductions, no kissing is done.[citation needed] A cheek kiss may be accompanied by a hug or another sign of physical affection. In business settings, the cheek kiss is not always standard upon introduction, but once a relationship is established, it is common practice.

However, my experience in Colombia shows that in that country it is extremely rare to give two kisses when being introduced.

Is there a distinction among countries? What would be a good etiquette?

  • Just do a handshake with everyone, no one is ever offended by that. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Jan 5 '17 at 13:18
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    @JonathanReez in Southern Europe extending your arm for a handshake may look quite weird if the woman is approaching you to perform the cheek kiss. – fedorqui Jan 5 '17 at 13:22
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    @JonathanReez Not directly offended, but...I learned Argentine tango in my home city in Germany. While learning dancing is a specific situation, every woman from South America without exception expected a cheek kiss (which is quite normal after a while). My impression is if you continue handshaking, it will be awkward and they will never open up. So if you want to dance Argentine tango, learn correct cheek kisses... – Thorsten S. Jan 6 '17 at 0:42
  • [citation needed] says a lot. – user33319 Jan 6 '17 at 7:37
  • Small side note: In Switzerland it's actually 3 "kisses", right, left, right. But only if the person know each other private or are introduced to each other and not in a business context. And it really depends on the closeness if it is only cheek on cheek or lips on cheek. – Thomas Jan 6 '17 at 10:43
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It is more like air kissing than cheek kissing here in South America and pretty much all over Central America too. You basically put your cheek against the one you are greeting and kiss. Only one kiss and we usually go for the left side, meaning each one has their head to the left of the other with the right cheeks touching.

In social situations, even if you were just introduced, women or a man and women will cheek kiss. If you extend your hand instead, they will act surprised. When I was traveling in the area and not living here, I often mistakenly extended my hand and got a comment saying something like Oh, American-style greeting while I usually followed with a cheek kiss to show that I am trying their customs. If you don't, they are unlikely to get ofended as they are generally understanding of people having different customs. At parties this makes for a string of people standing up to kiss when arriving and leaving, as cheek kissing is the standard gesture for goodbye too.

In business situations, both the handshake and the cheek kiss are common. The first one who starts the motion seems to decide. As I am usually uncertain and somewhat shy, I just hold on a second and see what happens. The last 3 women to interview me here all went for the cheek kiss. Although I have spend considerable amount of time all-over South and Central America, I have only been in business situations in Ecuador and Peru, so business etiquette may vary from my experience.

The quote you state from Wikipedia is accurate and interesting as I had never given much thought to self-introductions. The last time it happened to me there was indeed no cheek kissing, just a verbal pleased to meet you (mucho gusto in Spanish or muito prazer in Brazilian Portugese).

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    Thanks a lot for your thorough answer, Itai. I find specially interesting the fact that it is just one kiss, not two! – fedorqui Jan 5 '17 at 15:22
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    +1. As you say, not actually kissing the cheek, but air-kissing while touching (or nearly touching) right cheeks. – Wayne Jan 5 '17 at 18:29
  • While reading, I think I tend to go to the right instead of the left - but I should test it before giving a strong opinion. – mgarciaisaia Jan 5 '17 at 18:44
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    in Brazil at least this costume is very common betwwen womans or woman - male acquitances in informal situations – jean Jan 5 '17 at 19:26
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    Great answer, but the best part is to be alert and quick to follow their lead. I would expand that to say as soon as you arrive in a new area, start watching how the locals behave. – WGroleau Jan 6 '17 at 13:11
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In Southern Europe air kissing, or cheek kissing, in a professional circumstance is highly discouraged and should not be done prior a meeting or an interview. It does not matter whether the person is an acquaintance or just being introduced.

Of course, this etiquette might vary depending on job position and industry this one takes place though my first paragraph is taken as ideal when approaching a professional level.

In addition, South Europe is a vague definition and different traditions are found. In Spain it is common to give two kisses but in Italy varies from south to north, as it happens with France, even where sometimes is 3, or in Greece/Cyprus which etiquette in kissing can include two men being introduced as well.

Unfortunately, I don't have professional experience in Latin America however, socially, the approach given can be also determined for the person to be introduced.

In this case is also quite funny seeing how the native extends his/her hand to shake it and the "new" person gets closer to give a kiss instead of the other way around.

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    Portugal here, cheek kissing in a business setting is quite common, excepting maybe for interviews. – Rui F Ribeiro Jan 6 '17 at 11:34
  • In my opinion, while it's common in many southern countries, my biggest experience is in Spain, I would still not recommend it. We could go from respect of self space to even mention a slightly sexist action -this topic comes as two men don't generally do it, respecting their distance and comfort zone- and in any case is something we would like to put on the table prior a business decision. – Karasu-O-Matic Jan 6 '17 at 11:44
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I can talk about Argentina. Woman/male greetings are most commonly with an "air kiss", as mentioned above: you gently touch right cheeks while possibly doing a kiss sound. A hand shake between man and woman is not necessarily awkward, but shows a high level of formality. So, basically, as a male I would probably hand-shake with a woman in a formal/professional situation. In any situation where the introduction is as friends of friends, or situations like that, the kiss is mandatory.

Also, over the last three decades or so, male-to-male kiss has become the standard among friends. So when a friend introduces me his/her friend, it is sometimes confusing whether to shake hands or to kiss. The more informal the environment, the more common the kisses.

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In Latin America you should not kiss somebody when meeting for the first time. It is very safe to do a handshake in the beginning for all kinds of situations, business, casual, etc. People will not think it is awkward but more like you are formal person. Afterwards, you can say goodbye (or greet in another time) with what other people referred as the air kiss.

During high school I remember that if you really liked a girl, there was a nice way of playing suave, where for greeting, you would actually kiss the cheek but slowly and with passion, like a 2 second thing. But of course, this is with a girl who was kind of flirting with you already.

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