Kissing 101

In fashion circles, the double kiss is de rigueur. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t kissing faux pas.

“The kiss thing is so hard,” admits celebrity stylist Jorge Ramon. “My worst foul up—the half-cheek/half-lip thing.”

“People have become so casual with each other, especially men and women in business,” says Melissa Leonard, a Westchester-based etiquette and protocol expert ( “It’s like, ‘Oh, we met each other once,’ and kiss-kiss instead of the handshake.”

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The problem is, there’s a fine line between being casual and being too casual in business situations—and some feel it’s being crossed. “In an age of the web, we have this false sense of familiarity,” Leonard says. “So we feel we can be more intimate with someone much more quickly.” Even though it seems everyone is running around casually kissing each other, there are just as many people who are uncomfortable with this kissing trend.

Who can blame them? This is not France, a country that has social kissing down to a science. “People are unsure of their kissing savvy,” notes Leonard, who holds seminars in which the art of the social kiss is covered. “A lot of people have not had practice with the social kiss.” To help you out, we’ve outlined the following potential social kissing situations and offer tips, courtesy of Leonard.

You’re out and run into a business acquaintance. Do you kiss?
“The rule of thumb is to shake hands. If they lean in for the kiss, kiss them on the right cheek to avoid bumping heads.”

You see a business associate with his/her spouse. Do you kiss both of them?
“You wouldn’t kiss the wife or the husband of someone you don’t know, so why kiss an associate’s mate?”

You go to shake hands with a colleague and he or she goes in for the kiss. What do you do?
“Give just a quick embrace and pull back. A lot of people aren’t sure if they’re going to get hugged or kissed. Nothing is wrong with doing a cheek kiss, especially if you’re wearing lipstick.”

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You’re in the midst of a cheek kiss and brush lips by accident. What do you do?
“Go on as if nothing happened. Don’t draw attention. If you know to kiss on the right cheek, you shouldn’t have any goof ups.”

You’re at a business event with people from other countries. Do you kiss them?
“Know your rules of etiquette. In Japan, intimate physical contact is not the norm; it’s a major protocol faux pas. In the Middle East, men kiss each other, but they don’t kiss women. When in doubt, follow the lead of the client.”

// Kristin Larson

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