Hmm…got your attention, didn’t I?
If you’ve been around Italian families, or traveled in Italy, you have no doubt witnessed the double kiss on the cheek as a form of greeting. If you’re like me, you’ve wondered about the etiquette, and the proper method of the double kiss.
I think back to my days as a girl in small town Nebraska and jumping rope with friends. Two of my friends would swing a long rope between them. I’d use my hands, palm out, to gauge the up-and-down rotation of that long rope. My body would begin to sway with the rope’s rhythm. And then … I’d dash in, turn sideways, and jump over the swinging rope. My friends would often sing a cadence, marking the length of my turn. When the song ended, I dashed out, away from the rope. If I didn’t time the exit correctly, the rope would spank my backside.
The double kiss can—but shouldn’t—be like timing that jump rope.
You face a person you wish to greet with a double kiss. Does your head bounce side-to-side as you wonder which cheek you should aim for first?
You fear your heads might bump awkwardly together in a mistake or bad timing. What’s a person to do?
Great advice on this subject comes from Rick Zullo, an American expat in Rome, who provided the following tips in his newsletter.
First of all, it’s either two kisses or none at all–never just one. First left cheek to left cheek, then right to right. Warning! Attempting the opposite order can result in comic and possibly dangerous situations! And if you don’t know the person too well, this should be more of a light brush than an actual kiss. No French kissing unless explicitly invited to do so, no matter how much wine is flowing.
It’s OK, even expected, for two men to kiss each other in this way if they’ve met a couple of times before. On the first meeting, however, a handshake between men is acceptable and in fact probably much more common, especially in a business environment. But even the business relationship can warm up to a two-kiss greeting in Italy. So never assume.
Whether you’re an expat or tourist, you can find more of Rick’s great advice at: http://rickzullo.com
Thanks, Rick, for clarifying the mystery and stopping an embarrassing situation!
Left-to-Left, then Right-to-Right! That’s how to kiss an Italian!