Who exactly should you kiss in Portugal? When should you kiss them? I don’t mean full on romantic smooches, which are obviously reserved for very special people. I’m talking about the friendly, everyday cheek kisses, one on each side of the face.
Although it’s an integral part of life here, I’m afraid cheek kissing in Portugal is something I still haven’t quite worked out properly.
After many years of living in countries where kisses form part of social greetings, you’d think I’d have sussed out who I should and shouldn’t kiss but sadly, I’m still confused.
I get that when you see friends and family, it’s normal to kiss on both cheeks to say hello, and I even do this with some of my British friends when we meet up.
Who to kiss (and not to kiss) in Portugal
Beyond my immediate circle of friends in Portugal, I’m at a loss. I either hold back when I probably shouldn’t, or dish out kisses like they’re going out of fashion.
I’ve ended up kissing the builder on a few occasions – he’s also a neighbour so the boundaries are a bit blurry – but now that he’s not working at our house and we see him very rarely, it feels awkward and inappropriate to kiss him when we do meet so I’ve gone back to just saying hello.
Even that feels weird though, as though we’ve dropped back from a level of intimacy that should never have been there. Don’t get me wrong, there was never any hint of ‘intimate’ relations, and I have no idea what his thoughts are on this.
Hopefully, it’s just me that feels slightly uncomfortable at perhaps having overstepped the boundaries and then retreated. Hopefully, if he’s even noticed, he’ll have put it down to the fact that I’m foreign and don’t know any better.
It’s not just the builder that I have problems with. I used to teach English as a foreign language and Parents’ Day was always fraught with uncomfortable situations. Most parents are content to play along with the ‘Britishness’ of a handshake as a greeting but some lean in for the kissy business.
Should men exchange cheek kisses in Portugal?
Within the heterosexual community at least, it seems that when men greet each other, a handshake is the norm. Add in a manly arm grasp or even a hug depending on the depth of the relationship.
When should men cheek kiss women in Portugal?
Agian, this still confuses me slightly. My current understanding is that the general rule of thumb is ‘only if the woman initiates’ but that’s not always been my experience. It also feels uncomfortable as a woman to be with a group of mixed gender business associates who are exchanging kisses and then not to offer up my cheek to a man I don’t know and haven’t been introduced to. There’s often a moment of awkwardness and hesitation, followed by (on my part) a wondering if I did the right thing, whether I did the kissy thing or not.
If I can, I prefer to offer a handshake to men I don’t actually know.
Which side do you kiss first?
It took quite a while for me to work out which side of the face to aim for to avoid awkward clashes, and to be honest, I couldn’t tell you which one it is. That’s partly because I am left / right dyslexic, which leads to frantic pointing across the windscreen when I’m navigating as in “Go that way,” and partly because I’ve taken a Zen approach to choosing a side, which seems to be working well.
I think it’s right…
The problem with kissing parents and business aquaintances, I’ve found, is knowing what level of physical contact is appropriate. Am I supposed to air kiss, or lightly brush each cheek? Do I touch their shoulder or arm or just keep my hands to myself? Any advice is more than welcome!
In some ways, the kissing dilemma was worse with the students. In the UK, there’s no way a teacher would kiss a student. It would be grounds for dismissal in the land of Child Protection Laws. So I’d find it difficult, especially at the start of the first term, trying to evade the lips of the eight and nine-year-olds who wanted to kiss me goodbye after class.
Sometimes their parents would bring them along to Parents’ Day meetings and when the children offered their cheeks up for a kiss, I obliged. But only in front of their parents.
So help me out, please. If you can tell me who, when and how I should be kissing socially in Portugal, please leave a comment.