Adjunct to the "Shake 'n Hug": Cheek Kisses

So, what’s the word on cheek kisses?

A lot of people on my campus do it and I’m . . . a bit uncomfortable. I knew some folks on the West Coast who did “air kisses,” but these are real smackeroos.

Do I just stay still when someone comes in for the kiss? I’m terrified that I’m going to turn an odd way and accidentally kiss a colleague on the lips.

Do people get offended if I don’t return these affections in the same way (i.e., initiate or return cheek kisses?)

Why? Oh, why?

I only do the cheek kissing with people who expect it; the vast majority of them are family and family friends, almost all of whom are European. Most of my friends and I don’t do it because we’ve got more of a “hug” ritual. Expressing affection with friends and SOs and relatives are culturally based, and a lot of the people you see doing this on campus feel that it is natural to do that with the people that they’re close to.

I wouldn’t worry too much about people wanting to do this with you unless it comes up. If it makes you uncomfortable to do that and you’ve got something else you’d prefer, try to bring it up politely and just mentioned that you’re used to something a little less kissing-oriented in greeting. I don’t think that, if worded in a manner that’s polite, it will be a problem making yourself clear on this. Just remember that, although it’s a sensitive issue, it’s not as sensitive as other ones, so if you approach it in a respectful manner, it shouldn’t be a problem.

My first regular experience with it was at my current church. It’s a local custom (kiss of peace kinda thing) and you just come in from the outside, so basically your cheek touches (or grazes, or comes somewhere in the region of) the other person’s cheek, you make a quick peck at the air while there, then repeat on the other side. From strong French descent myself, I accepted it quite quickly, but I only do it with people that try to do it with me first.