His lips feel soft and warm. It is a gentle touch of his tongue in the right corner of my mouth what produces a nice and beautifully short moment of shivering…

This is only one description how a kiss could feel like. Kisses are different. They can be wet or dry, short or long (the record currently is more than 58 and a half hours), on the hands, on the lips or just next to the cheek in the air and – every different kind of kiss needs different amounts of kilojoules (yeah – if you haven’t known so far, you can now be aware of the fact that kissing is a way to burn calories – of course depending on the degree of passion and activity you put into it). But: where does the habit of kissing come from? And do people from Spain touch the lips of their spouse in the same way as Vaticans kiss the hand of the pope and Ms. Princess kisses the frog?

Unkissed people

In fact, not all over the world kisses are common. Only 46 % of cultures kiss with a romantic background according to a study conducted by William Jankowiak, professor of anthropology at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. Among this 46% many different habits exist. So be attentive: maybe you can spot some interesting ways of comforting each other during your next trip.

Different kissing dialects 

Most famously known but not widely used is the “Inuit-kiss”. Ever rubbed your nose against the one of your spouse, wife or family member? Then try it out. In case you do not want to travel in such cold places like the Arctic you can also find this custom in Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Polynesian Islands, and the Maori tribe of New Zealand. You need something implementable in times of Covid or any other disease? The way of showing affection in Japan may be the right way to chose then. Here, men and women greet each other by bowing. To show respect to particularly women in Poland, Austria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia however, you should come one step closer and combine the bowing with a kiss on the hand. In Arab countries often men kiss men – if you see a forehead kiss between two male people this is a sign of respect. Many European cultures may have carried on history and continue to give each other the “holy kiss” which was suggested by St. Paul in order to greet each other. Maybe they believe that more kisses also bring more holiness, since they are not satisfied when kissing only once, such as the Italian people who need to complete their kiss ceremony by two touchpoints on every cheek. People in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Montenegro, Macedonia and Slovenia even take more: Three times on the cheek is the procedure you have to expect – and be aware to avoid embarrassing situations: they always start on the right side. 

Up to 8 times – you can never kiss too much

French again are normally two time kissers- but: depending on the geographic region they may start with different sides. Believe me: I encountered this situation once I was in Strasbourg and could observe even French natives being confused by the regional “kissing dialects” from their fellows. It gets even more difficult when the side to start the procedure or the amount of kisses depend on the gender. In Ecuador for instance only women enjoy being kissed on their right cheek. Who is the winner in the amount of kisses are actually the Afghans who keep repeating the touch of the mouth up to ten times. If you want to minimize the amount of expected kisses, you may travel to Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Peru or the Philippines which only use one kiss.

What to do with the rest of the body which is neither your mouth nor your tongue? The best praxis is normally to touch the shoulders of the person opposite to you on his or her shoulders. 

The kissing behaviour

I have not yet revealed the ultimate details you need to follow so that the locals do not angrily focus on you and your strange habits right away: normally those “side-to-side” kisses avoid a real wet meeting between the lips and the cheek, but are executed as a gentle touch of the two cheeks instead, mostly combined with a tiny kissing sound. If you wonder on where to put your hands it may be the easiest and least suspicious option to place it on the shoulders of the one you are currently meeting closely. If you are still confused one go-to is always to observe and imitate the person next to you and try to behave in a similar way. Don’t be shy if you are unsure: As I have experienced so far, inhabitants in your dream destination are mainly open-minded and are even happy when being given the chance to introduce their kissing habits to an interested visitor.

Quick guide of international kissing 

France

Two time at least

Chile

Only one kiss

Italy

Two kisses – every cheek one

Vatican

The holy kiss to greet each other

Afghanistan

Up to 8 kisses

Poland

Hand kiss

A place  called “kissing post” does exist. On Elis Island it may have been one of the most happy locations in the world.

Even very particular places designated for kissing do exist – for instance in New York. Here at the Syracuse University we find a bench which is said to determine your future in loneliness or intimate togetherness – depending on whether you rest on the stone bench alone or you are accompanied by a kissing fellow. A place where kissing did not start but was continued is the so called “kissing post” on Ellis island where immigrants to the US where reunited with their families. Some customs of kissing seem not to enjoy the touching of the soft and warm lip texture but rather opt for cold and steely experience. If you are this kind of tourist, you should directly kick off into your Scotland trip. Here you find the Barney Stone. Why people love to touch this stone with their mouth is still a huge debate. Not only Stones are kissed internationally but also the ground. In order to show respect for fertile land, many African tribes use to bend down and kiss the earth. Also, bricks are kissed, such as the start-finish line of the racetrack at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, hopefully giving luck to every participant of the race. Australians are a step more modest: they not even need a stone or the soil, they just do air kissing for greeting each other. This may be a praxis which inhabitants of some US states will also opt for in order not to pay a fine or be sent to prison. In Hartford, Connecticut at least men should not kiss their wife on Sundays and for men with a moustache living in India it is even not enough to wait till Monday: here, no matter which day, it is illegal to kiss as long as they do not get rid of their moustache. Cedar Rapids in Iowa does not focus on the person kissing when differentiating between legal and illegal kisses, but on the one receiving the lip-touch: here, it is forbidden to kiss strangers.

Besides everyday life, kissing plays an important role on special occasions: The tradition is considered to date back to the ancient Romans. As mentioned in our article about wedding customs (link) in some countries the population modify this habit into a game, for instance in Sweden where everyone tries to kiss the groom or bride whenever the other half of the couple is not in the room.

No matter in which way you get close to your partner: Kissing or any similar habit always includes trust, positive emotions and a way of being close to each other. If you need an extra portion of that, plan your next trip to Bali and take part in the Omed-Omedan festival, also known as kissing festival. Attending this event, you can not only look forward to comforting kisses, but also dances and the spraying of water.

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Kissing as medical treatment

Additional positive news at the end: No matter where and with whom you kiss: Please continue to spread love by kissing, as there are various positive effects – even medically proven – coming along with it:

    • The fact which many of us may be aware of: kissing helps to increase the emotions of bonding and togetherness. Thus, kissing turns out to be a free form of partner therapy
    • Our brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) also react to the petting procedure. They help us reducing stress and soothe our minds
    • It is true that kissing in some cases increases the risk of getting an illness that your partner has. However, regularly exchanging one’s spook actually helps us to build a stable immune response

… I still feel the calming and comfortable softness of his lips glued to mine. The sweet taste in combination with the gentle touch of his fingers at my neck lead to a warm feeling arising from my heart and filling into every cell of my body and I have only one thought: Kissing is just great – as long as it is voluntary. No matter where in the world you are.

Lilith Diringer

The ChargeHolidays’ inititiator Lilith is interested in everything which is international. She is curious of finding out different habits and loves researching about traditions and cultures. In fact she has not yet tried out too many kisses with people from too many cultres – but after having written this article she may test some customs with her husband.