No Kissing Please… We’re British!

I love being an expat, I love working in a different country, and most importantly I love being in a place where you don’t have to wonder what the weather will be like – it’s always shorts and t-shirt weather. It’s always lovely and hot. Give me blazing sun over winter blues anyday.

I’d say 95% of the time I love being in India. The other 5% of the time I’m trying to bargain with theives Auto drivers.

One of the best things about being an expat is the sheer variety of people you get to meet, from all over the world. I have my little clique, as everyone does, and yes, it’s full of Brits with the occasional American to mix things up. (I’m sure my Scottish friend will take exception to being called a Brit though!).

Today, for example, I was playing football at the American International School (the private, $20,000 / year school for foreign kids) and there must have been at least 10 different nationalities. We even had a guy from Burma! Burma I tell you! I didn’t think they were allowed out of their country.

So all this schmoozing and hobnobbing with foreigners (I’m British, we’re not foreign, regardless of which country we’re in; they all speak our language [tongue is in cheek here and not meant to be taken seriously!]) brings up a problematic dilemma.

That of the social kiss.

To a Brit, personal space is everything, an acceptable form of greeting is to extend your right hand and have a firm handshake. Applies to guys and girls. If you are very close to the person (and they are of the opposite sex!) a light hug may be acceptable, if it’s initiated by the girl (note to guys; don’t initiate the hug, let it come to you. Could cause all kinds of problems otherwise).

So, I now have to navigate this social kissing minefield with foreigners from all over the world (and we are talking just the females here, don’t get any funny ideas). Honestly, for the poor British, who are perfectly happy with the formal handshake, social kissing is enough to give you cold sweats and shivers down your back.

I mean, do you go right cheek then left cheek? Or the other way round? Do you making a kissing noise? Do you just plant one kiss? Do you kiss the air or the cheek? Should you initiate the embrace? What if she leans in and you don’t realise and leave her hanging? Some people do three kisses, how are you to know? What if you accidently kiss on the lips?

Gah. This kissing problem is something you don’t consider when you move abroad. Consider yourself told, if you are thinking of moving abroad and not confident with your social kissing, you could be outcast and ostracized from the expat community. “Did you hear about Jeff? Monique went to greet him and he actually kissed her!”

And to Anita, if you are reading this, I’m really sorry! We don’t understand social kissing!

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