Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Social kissing = social embarrassment

Sometimes I find it very awkward being a British male.

Take kissing.

I’m not talking about romantic or family kisses – I am talking about social kissing. Do you or don’t you?

Before I came down to Bath, nearly four years ago, this wasn’t an issue – they just don’t ‘do’ social kissing in my part of the Midlands. Or at least they didn’t do it with me.

In this city, however, I soon saw that kissing is far more common in social occasions but the problem I have is I never know when it is right to do so.

Will the ‘kissee’ be offended if I do – or offended if I don’t?

At the start of my adventure into lip-puckering contact, I probably looked horrified as people came towards me face-to-face. I guess I thought at times I was going to be head butted rather than have a smacker on my cheek and that is somewhat off putting.
I did, slowly, get into the drift, but last week, after socially kissing at least three charming ladies and wondering afterwards “Oh blimey, should I have done that?” , I started to think I would retire my lips from social occasions again.

I put my dilemma on Facebook and received a number of not terribly helpful responses, which showed that nobody really understands these things, so I did a bit of internet research to try and see if there was an official etiquette for the embarrassed UK male.

The most amusing site I found – which provided such fascinating nuggets as the history of Paris ‘four kiss greeting’ and the fact that in Belgium, if someone is at least 10 years older than you, you can kiss them three times as opposed to the traditional one, there was a lovely description of the awkwardness we Brits find in these situations.

It said that as a nation we are shy of physical contact and would prefer to opt for a handshake or a nod.

It also wisely told foreign readers to remember that if a British person says “How are you”, they absolutely do not want you to tell them.

So I’ve therefore decided that I’m going to return to my British stereotype and avoid PDA (that’s public display of affection, to the uninitiated) to all apart from a couple of people for whom such non-contact would be impossible (hello Lorraine).

Of course, I then face the ultimate horror of going in with my manly handshake and being greeted by an outstretched cheek and not knowing what to do with it.

My, oh my, aren’t these things confusing? I blame the French.

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