General Question

Mamradpivo's avatar

How do you greet members of the opposite sex?

Asked by Mamradpivo (9665points) December 15th, 2011

For instance: in some countries, men and women air-kiss each other twice. In some countries, it’s three times. In America, it’s common to hug someone you know decently well. Sometimes it’s just a handshake.

I’m very curious, as I have recently had some awkward interactions where, for instance, I went for the Dutch standard of 3 times with someone from a country who didn’t expect a third ‘mwah.’

How do you handle this situation?

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36 Answers

janbb's avatar

“Hi!” for acquaintances; a hug for a friend. It seems to me that hugging has gotten more common among my friends than it used to be.

the_overthinker's avatar

I guess I don’t hug very often, but I will depending on my mood. I’ll hug if I haven’t seen the person for a long time, and missed them. Usually it’ll be a very enthusiastic “hi!” though.

If I’m in a different country with different greetings than what I usually do, I guess I’d try to adapt and do what they do.

wundayatta's avatar

I try to remember what culture I’m in at the moment, and I take my cue from the people who are of that culture.

If I forget myself, I try not to worry much about it. Air kissing thrice instead of twice is not likely to start the next nuclear war, but just in case, a little awareness will probably do the trick.

zenvelo's avatar

For friends, a hug. For close friends, a kiss on the cheek.

marinelife's avatar

I don’t like to be hugged except by people that are close to me. So I usually don’t hug.

downtide's avatar

Hugs for family and close friends, handshake for formal/business aquaintances, no physical contact for anyone else. People in my social circles would think I was weird if I started air-kissing or kissing them on the cheek. It’s just not done in northern England (unless you are a celebrity, or very posh, or trying to appear posh).

comity's avatar

At this stage of the game, I don’t meet too many new people, but I give a big hug to those I know. I have met a few people though, when I moved to this town six years ago, who reached out to me with a big hug. Nice!

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I will hug family members, known friends and reach out my hand to touch their shoulder while greeting new friends I’ve just been introduced to. In some groups I know a hug and air kiss is expected without anything being read into it, I just try to prepare for whatever situation I’m going into. Very rarely do I only give a handshake.

bomi's avatar

I just tell them that I’m new to the culture, apologize if I offended them, and tell them I’m still learning. All cultures have very different ways of greeting, and all people have their own preferences as well.

I don’t like hugging, really. I just wave.

MilkyWay's avatar

Handshake for people I’m not very close to. A punch on the arm for people that are close.

Bellatrix's avatar

Depends on how well I know them. A really good friend might be a big smile and a hug. A less well known friend just hello and a smile. Someone I am just meeting, smile, hello and perhaps a hand shake. It varies depending on the relationship.

PhiNotPi's avatar

Family members that I live with: No greeting
Family members that I don’t live with: A hug
Anything somewhat formal: A handshake
Friends: A “hi” and some sort of hand wave (not that much of a wave, more like a hand raise)
Close friends: one of the above
Strangers that I am having a conversation with: A “hello”
Complete strangers that I am not talking to: No greeting

For how I would handle the situation, I would probably explain that this is how people greet each other where I’m from, and then promptly wave it off as not a big deal.

Sunny2's avatar

I may hang back for a bit to see what the custom is. If I’m going to an unknown foreign country, I may look up what the customs are, so I have a clue. Greetings, eating habits, other customs, etc are available in travel guides.

tranquilsea's avatar

A very enthusiastic “Hi!” for heterosexual men. For gay men: a hug.

comity's avatar

@tranquilsea Cute and confident. I like that!

LuckyGuy's avatar

I’m a hugger with people I know well – even with hetero guys.

Bellatrix's avatar

I love that you hug @LuckyGuy. Beautiful.

JLeslie's avatar

I live in America. I am female

In the midwest I give my friends a hug when I see them.

Most of my Latin American friends here I give a kiss on one cheek.

In Florida I usually give a kiss, some very special people a kiss and hug.

People I have never met before of the opposite sex I usually extend my hand for a handshake, but not always. If it is in a business/work situation I always would expect to shake hands.

Some of my European friends we do a kiss on each cheek.

Some of it matters how long it has been since I have seen them. If I see them regularly I might not bother with any kisses or hugs.

Pandora's avatar

Family and friends , I will give a kiss and a hug to if I know they are alright with being given a kiss or hug. For everyone else I just offer my hand. When I’m out of the country and I’m not sure of the customs, then I will just say hello and nod and smile. The smile will be withheld if I were to go to a country where females are considered floozies if they did dare to smile. Fortuately, I will never have that problem since I would never even consider going to a country where women are considered property. I do have some foreign men neighbors who practically scoff when I say hello. I do it to remind them that they are not in their own country and if they don’t like it, than they are welcome to go back to where they came from. Nobody is making them stay.

cookieman's avatar

I’m with @LuckyGuy…I’m a big hugger (bear hugs even). For our friends and family from abroad (Argentina and Italy mostly), I’ll throw in a cheek kiss.

I simply cannot do the air-kiss with a straight face. I always just giggle. I mean, the cheek is right there. Move the extra inch and plant a real one.

If I sense someone is a little uptight (particularly some manly hetero guys), I’ll go for the firm handshake. Sometimes, I’ll start off with the handshake, then pull them in for a one-armed hug.

JLeslie's avatar

@cprevite Not trying to say all citizens of Latin American countries should think or act the same, but my husband, the Mexican, LOL, thinks hugging without a kiss is extremely odd. And, that the kissing and hugging thing is for people you are very very close to, very close friends and family. Sometimes my midwestern friends give him a hug and he just thinks its bazaar.

janbb's avatar

I’m betting that a hug from @cprevite is a nice hug!

wundayatta's avatar

@cprevite If you pulled this uptight person in for a one-armed hug the first time you met me I would be, like, whoa! This dude has no boundaries! Better watch out! He’s gonna want to know my deepest darkest secrets two minutes from now. And no matter what I may be like online, that is for damn sure not going to happen in real life! No effin way!

Adagio's avatar

“I’m very curious, as I have recently had some awkward interactions where, for instance, I went for the Dutch standard of 3 times with someone from a country who didn’t expect a third ‘mwah’.”

How do you handle this situation?

It’s not your responsibility to handle the situation, leave that to the person who was surprised by your actions, if you made a cultural faux pas big deal, other people should know better than to be offended, let them handle their own feelings.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

I prefer greeting members of the opposite sex with my version of respect, which may or may not be the same as theirs.

I don’t greet most people with physical affection of any kind, including handshakes. If someone initiates a hug or a handshake, though, I may just play along out of politeness.

bostonbeliever's avatar

It depends a lot on how well you know the person.
For me it’s: hugs and kisses on the cheek for older family members; hugs for really close friends; a wave, a smile, and a “hey!” for not as close friends; for meeting new people my age, generally a handshake.
Some people have certain preferences though: some family friends I know prefer the European double-kiss; also the length and intensity of the hug differs from friend to friend.
I hope this helps.

JLeslie's avatar

Just as a sort of outside comment, it used to be, I have know idea if this has changed in any sort of official way, that the etiquette was a man always waits for a woman to extend her hand in social situations. In other words a man does not put his hand out first for a handshake, or hug, or kiss, or whatever. Business was different, as the parties are seen as equal, and the handshake is a nonsexual business practice. Probably all of us agree a handshake in any situation is nonsexual, but I kind of like the old idea that a woman takes the first initiative in pureky social situations for anything more than a handshake.

Brian1946's avatar


”...I have know idea if this has changed in any sort of official way, that the etiquette was a man always waits for a woman to extend her hand in social situations.”

That’s how I usually play it.

What if the woman has previously initiated one of those physical greetings? E.g., my doctor extended her hand to me the first time we shook. She’s occasionally initiated handshaking since then, and consequently I’ve extended my hand to her a few other times.

JLeslie's avatar

@Brian1946 I don’t know the official answer, but my feeling is the rule is only for first time meetings. Once it is established the two people either shake hands, or hug, or whatever, then I think alls good with men assuming it is ok.

On a side note, I hate doctors who shake my hand in the room where I will be examined. And, it is always them putting out their hand obviously, because I would never be the one to do it, seeing as I dislike it so much.

cookieman's avatar

@JLeslie: I know what you mean. The full cheek, double kiss is very popular with my wife’s family from Argentina. :mwah. mwah.:

@janbb: Flipper on over here penguin and I’ll demonstrate.

@wundayatta: That’s okay. I can respect that. Just means more hugging for the penguin.

JLeslie's avatar

@cprevite Ah, double kiss in Argentina, that must be because of the heavy European inlfuence there. Most of my Latin American friends stick with the single kiss.

cookieman's avatar

@JLeslie: You’re on to something. My wife’s family all immigrated to Argentina from Italy post WWII.

JLeslie's avatar

@cprevite Yeah, Argentina is full of Italians and Germans.

janbb's avatar

@cprevite Can you see me sliding up North on my belly with flippers ready for that hugging? And I’ve got some brownies in my beak for you.

zensky's avatar

The fewer hands I shake, the less germs I get.

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