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K is for Kissing

Posted on by Beyond Bespoke

A-Z of British Etiquette

Today the social kiss is pandemic. You can’t move at a party for any old Tom, Dick or Harry wanting to come up to kiss you. Traditionally, we Brits are very reserved about these things and are reluctant to show much, or indeed any, emotion to those we do not know very, very well. Typically, we only show affection to dogs or horses.

If you lean in to kiss someone upon first greeting, or even on first departure since meeting them, then your cards will probably be marked. Not that the kissee will say or do anything at the time – good manners dictate that they will behave as if it was perfectly natural.

You should only kiss once, unless you are of a particularly artistic nature or have worked in the theatre, where a two-kiss greeting for all and sundry is the norm. With the increase and ease of travel, some pasty Brits have begun to fancy themselves as continental boulevardiers and are kissing twice now, for no apparent reason. In some parts of France – and in the Netherlands, too – they kiss not once, not twice, but thrice! It’s like having a bath. Thankfully this is yet to penetrate British kissing culture to any significant extent. Except in the environs of Sloane Square.

In social situations, chaps should take the lead from the girls. If the girl proffers her cheek then he may go in for the social kiss. If a hand is offered, then no kissing is likely to occur.

A social kiss involves no lips or silly sound effects. One cheek is pressed gently against the other, and that is that. If you aim for the lips don’t be surprised to find yourself kissing an ear on a swiftly swivelled head.

William Hanson is the Etiquette and Protocol Consultant for The English Manner. He works with VIP households, diplomats, businessmen, schools and colleges and has advised multinational brands. He is regularly asked by global media to comment on modern manners and social mores.

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