The act of kissing has been a hot topic in my etiquette classes this past week. First, during a group session with Korean students, one gentleman in his twenties wanted to know how to stave off women who act too familiar and prefer to greet him with a kiss. Then, during a private session with two brothers, it was a precocious six year old boy who couldn’t’t wait to recount to me his disgust over how adults kiss by putting their tongues in each other’s mouths. Finally, it was a conversation with a business client who had read an article in the Financial Times about Germany’s irritation over the rise of the office kiss.

Once regarded as a simple, sweet peck on the cheek, today’s kiss seems to be loaded with hidden meaning and negative connotations. It is no longer innocent, but laden with ulterior motives to the point where a casual greeting kiss may be misconstrued for something much more and a discrete kiss between colleagues at the office may become fodder for the rumor mill and unwanted cooler talk.

Kissing has long been a source of great interest and mystery. From a very young age, we were introduced to its almighty power. Whether watching Snow White awaken from a deep slumber after receiving her long-awaited Prince’s kiss or Cinderella fitting the glass slipper and sharing a wedding kiss with Prince Charming before skipping off happily ever after or Romeo and Juliette sharing one final kiss before their last breath. Nowadays the kiss is more about shock value than an expression of romance with awards shows handing out statuettes for Best Kiss and such. It’s time to put the innocence back into kissing and review a few of the etiquette rules associated with one of life’s greatest forms of expression.

The Proper Air Kiss. Contrary to popular belief, casual, friendly kissing should never involve lip to lip or even lip to face contact. The proper kiss is actually an air kiss that involves cheek-to-cheek activity only. In order to avoid bumping noses, the air kiss always begins with the right cheek first. Hands typically touch the shoulders and the duration of the kiss is fairly quick.

The Social Kiss. Social kissing is the most common form of affection between good friends. We use the kiss to greet one another hello as well as goodbye. Kissing is a reciprocal expression and requires each party to act appropriately. To avoid any miscommunication, sticking to the correct technique is imperative. This will guarantee that your actions are clear and that the recipient is aware of your intentions. Social kissing is harmless and should never be rejected. That is considered the height of rudeness.

Practice Good Hygiene. Good oral hygiene is always appreciated, especially when engaging in romantic kissing. If possible, begin by brushing your teeth and gargling with mouthwash to ensure even fresher breath. For impromptu kisses, a mint candy or gum beforehand will do the trick. Avoid dry lips by applying a little dab of your favorite lip moistener. Ladies, go easy on the dark lipstick. Your partner may not appreciate permanent red stains on his face. Gentlemen, groom your facial hair to make sure your ladies do not walk away with burns from hair stubble.

Romantic Kissing. This is the only type of kissing reserved for lovers, partners and romantic relationships and involves direct lip-to-lip contact. Without getting too technical, most people equate a good kisser with being good in the boudoir as well. If you are a novice and a bit hesitant in this area, just follow the lead of the person you are kissing. Romantic kissing is a deep, passionate expression between two people and can often be more intimate than sexual relations.

Office Kissing. Kissing colleagues or clients at work is a big no, no. For everyone’s sake, professionalism in the workplace must always reign and showing respect is first and foremost. That being said, the ultimate deciding factor is based upon the profession and level of familiarity. In conservative work environments, social kissing would be considered out of place, however, in some of the more liberal work environs a kiss between colleagues or clients is customary.

When in Rome. In America, we favor the air kiss initiated on the right cheek, but not every culture adheres to the same kissing rituals. If you are greeting someone from abroad, be respectful and greet them in the way they are most comfortable. In France, friends and family kiss each other on two cheeks left and then right. In Belgium, they engage in three air cheek kisses, alternating right, left, right. In Austria and Italy, air kisses on both cheeks are exchanged once a person becomes more familiar. In the UK, friends often kiss on one or two cheeks. In the Middle East, men kissing each other on the cheek is standard. Kissing any member of the opposite sex is considered offensive. Indians refrain altogether from any show of public physical affection.

Parental Kissing. A parent’s kiss is the most comforting type of kiss a child may receive, however, it should not be on the lips. Parents can convey just as much affection with a warm kiss on the cheek or forehead. Growing up, I remember my paternal grandfather had a fondness for kissing me right on my eyelids. The wet slobbery kisses that smelled of cigars often required a towel to wipe them dry, but that was his way and I felt the love.

Have any issues with kissing? Any inappropriate behavior you have encountered or questions you have regarding awkward kissing situations? Share with us. We’d love to hear from you!