International Business Etiquette: Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands?

The meaning of a kiss is different around the world. In some cultures, it may be an expression of admiration or romantic affection, whereas in other cultures, it may be considered offensive. On this special day of romance, learn the ins and outs of the social kissing etiquette around the world.  Throughout all cultures people greet one another as a sign of recognition and friendship.

Here’s the common approach to cheek kissing in other countries:

  • One kiss:  Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Peru, the Philippines
  • Two kisses:  Spain, Italy, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Bosnia, Brazil (though, like France, the number can differ by region), and some Middle Eastern countries (though not between opposite sexes)
  • Three kisses:  Belgium, Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Egypt and Russia (where it’s accompanied by a bear hug)
Alternative Description

In the UK, cheek kissing is ambiguous and sometimes uncomfortable as no one is sure when it’s suitable or even how many kisses there should be. According to Debrett’s, the authority on etiquette and behaviour, kissing is taking over from handshaking, almost as the handshake took over from the bow. Men kissing one another as a greeting is still unusual, and kissing is not appropriate in many professional situations. On the whole, Debrett’s suggest it should only be used among friends, not at business meetings.

So what to do? One approach is to default to what is safest but take the other person’s lead. Even if you feel awkward or embarrassed, you’re demonstrating an important social signal that you’re aware of that country’s customs.

From all at Babel, we wish you a happy Valentine's Day!

Want to learn more?  Global Gift Giving can be just as important as a kiss, bow and shake of hands, read our blog on how to get this right too.  If you need to make a good first impression with your new international parent company, potential foreign client or supplier, contact us for a sample course outline for our 'Working Effectively with...' courses which focus on the culture/s of your choice and covers social and business etiquette.  All training is tailored to meet your needs and delivered at a location of your choice.

Testimonials

"We are very happy with the service that we receive from Babel which has been consistently proactive and prompt. Our learners give consistently positive feedback on the standard of tuition provided. I would not hesitate in recommending Babel as language tuition provider."

Foreign Language Training

Total E&P UK

"Nice relaxed process, let discussions flow yet guided the course on time. Enjoyed the course, very informal!"

International Negotiations Skills Workshop

Genus ABS

View all testimonials

Online Learning During the Corona Virus Outbreak

During the Corona virus disruption, we have expanded our online offering so that your employees can continue to learn while working from home. Our experienced trainers can provide inspiring sessions and webinars live online. These include and are not limited to: virtual classrooms for foreign and English language training, international assignee briefings, country-specific cultural briefings and virtual culture coaching. Please contact us if you would like to discuss these options on 020 8295 5877.