How the world kisses

Photo: Michael Luz

On 6. July is the international day of the kiss. A French kiss is more intimate than almost any other token of love between two people. However, kissing in public is not permitted everywhere. In some countries, an intimate kiss is even considered sexual foreplay.

Stuttgart – Mexicans like it passionately when they make out. The English, on the other hand, attach importance to not too wet kisses. Which kiss rituals in other countries in addition, in Germany are practiced, we explain on the occasion of the international day of the kiss.

The greeting kiss

Kisses on the left, kisses on the right: Especially in the Mediterranean region, it is customary to greet and say goodbye to family members, friends and acquaintances with kisses. Germans are often confused by the question of how many kisses are appropriate in which country. While in Greece (first right, then left), in Italy and Spain (first left, then right) two kisses are the rule, the Swiss and the Belgians kiss each other three times (left, right, left). In France it gets complicated: Depending on the region and on the degree of popularity, there are sometimes two, sometimes three and sometimes four kisses. The cheeks are usually only lightly pressed together and not kissed (exceptions prove the rule). The welcoming ceremony in Ethiopia can get out of hand: Depending on how intimate the relationship between the parties is, ten or more kisses are exchanged – but three kisses are the minimum.

Kissing in the office

In some parts of Germany, too, the greeting kiss is widespread. At work, however, kissing is not considered proper etiquette etiquette. In a special meeting in Weissach near Stuttgart, the "kissing and kissing" working group decided to ban kissing in the office. In "passionate discussions," according to the website of the Knigge Academy, the experts found the kissing consensus: in private, the greeting kiss is okay, but in the office it is a no-go. "In business, the ritual of greeting is the handshake. The permissible distance in Germany is about 60 centimeters or an arm’s length. That is clear. No sign of a kissing kiss," explains Uta Kilian, the kissing officer of the German Knigge Society. According to the experts, the first kiss should be on the left cheek, the second on the right.

Kiss the hand

"Kiss the hand, beautiful woman": In Italy, Austria, France and Poland, kissing the hand is still quite common. In Germany, however, this old-fashioned gesture of respect is mostly limited to nobility and celebrities. Kissed the hand may be according to Knigge only in closed areas and on platforms. A kiss on the hand, the etiquette manual continues, is only due to a lady "if she is married and older than 30 years.Under no circumstances should the lady force a hand kiss by extending her hand to the gentleman – the decisive factor is that both persons "maintain an uninhibited habitualness"."The gentleman, for his part, should keep a distance of about two centimeters from the back of the lady’s hand – strictly speaking, there is no kissing. Good to know: If a gentleman greets a lady in the room with a kiss on the hand, he must also do the same with all other ladies present.

Kissing forbidden

The farewell kiss at the airport or train station is an everyday occurrence in Germany. In other countries, however, kissing in public is not allowed – and is sometimes punished with high penalties. Travelers in India, Indonesia and Malaysia, for example, should hold back on kissing. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), vacationers should not even hold hands in public: Because in the case of a report, the exchange of affection is also punishable under criminal law, informs the Foreign Office. In other countries, public smooching is not a punishable offense, but it is frowned upon. In China and Japan, for example, kissing is considered part of foreplay. There, lovers should therefore only kiss in the hotel room. Even in Europe, smooching is forbidden in some places: According to the travel insurance company Secure Travel, in the Italian town of Eboli, kissing in the car is punishable by a fine of 500 euros. Even in France, the land of love, kissing goodbye at railroad crossings has been officially prohibited for more than 100 years. Punished is a violation but the law has long since ceased to apply.

No interest

Kissing is not part of a love relationship everywhere in the world. On the contrary, in most cultures, the romantic kiss is not the norm, according to Justin Garcia of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University in the U.S. "In some cultures, kisses evoke an uncomfortable feeling; others even find them repulsive," Garcia wrote in 2015 in the journal American Anthropologist. Together with his team, he studied 168 cultures worldwide and found that kissing on the mouth is practiced by only 46 percent of them. According to the researchers, romantic-sexual kissing is most widespread in the Middle East, North America, Europe and Asia. In Central America, the Amazon and sub-Saharan Africa, people living in traditional cultures hardly ever kiss on the mouth. That kissing is part of love is a very Western idea, the researchers conclude.

Different customs, different kisses

Opinions differ on the question of the perfect kiss. For Mexicans, for example, nothing beats passion: Almost three quarters of them find it a turn-off if their partner holds back too much when kissing. This is the result of the "Cora Romance Report 2003," for which more than 4,000 women and men from 18 countries were surveyed. According to the report, every second English woman is afraid of lips that are too wet. For the Germans, French kissing is even like a first test. 42.5 percent of them think that If you’re not good at kissing, you’re also a bore during sex. Worldwide, as many as 44 percent of women are of this opinion.

Preferences also differ when it comes to the best place to kiss: For 17 percent of Finnish men, for example, the car is the most romantic place to make out. A quarter of Japanese would rather do it on a secluded stretch of beach. 16.5 percent of Germans consider a crackling fireplace to be the perfect background for cuddling and kissing. All nations agree on one point: with the right partner, everywhere is the ideal place for kissing, say 53.1 percent of the respondents.

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