The Air Kiss – an alien culture!

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Air Kissing is certainly not popular across the globe. What do you do in business meetings? 

Gender was not discussed in business until the recent past. But with businesses going global and, more and more women entering the sphere, some uncomfortable questions have been cropping up recently.

One of them certainly is the “air kiss”.

Image - John Lustig/
Image – John Lustig/

A quick opinion poll revealed that most people perceive the “air kiss” from the opposite gender as a “deal done”. But that is not done? What do you say? If in case one is not very comfortable for the entire “touch-therapy”, how does it reflect on business intelligence?

Shital Kakkar Mehra who has  sold  over 20, 000 copies  of her book  on business etiquette,  tells the readers of Arabian Gazette on how to deal with these “mwahs”!!

According to her, air kissing is the pretense of kissing accompanied by the “mwah” sound. This form of greeting involves entering another person’s personal space by placing your lips a couple of inches north of their ear while lightly pretending to touch their cheek to yours.

In India, social kissing was restricted to the Page 3 regulars. However, in the past few years, globalisation has pushed the Indian executive to interact with Americans, Russians, Europeans, Mexicans and Arabs in various socio-business settings. This has led to confusion! I have received several queries about this alien concept:


  • Should we start with the right cheek or the left cheek?
  • How many times should we air kiss – once or twice?
  • I am uncomfortable air-kissing – is there a way to avoid it?


Interestingly, air kissing is cultural! Although not a part of our culture, it’s a single kiss on the right cheek in the United States and varies in Continental Europe – three kisses in Belgium, Netherlands and Switzerland; two kisses in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. In UK and Germany, it’s reserved for people one knows socially and is not extended to business situations. Some cultures go beyond the air kiss – Russians may follow it up with a light back-slap, Arabs reserve it for members of the same gender and finish off the greeting with a half-hug.


If you feel uncomfortable air-kissing your business contacts, anticipate it and put your right hand out for a firm handshake.

Firm handshakes do make sense when in doubt. What do you feel?

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