If television and movies have taught us anything, it’s that people on the other side of the pond have different ways of saying “hello” to one another than we do here in the U.S. The thought can be absolutely terrifying to those who are planning to travel abroad and have no idea how to greet the residents when they get there. Unless you have zero plans of mingling with the locals and making any new friends, taking the time to learn some of the cultural norms for greeting someone in your chosen destination can be extremely beneficial. Plus, it will certainly help to avoid the possibility of an awkward head-bob-kiss-kiss mishap.
Follow these greeting guidelines when visiting these particular countries:
France – The “bise,” as it is referred to, will vary depending on which part of the country you are in. Offer your right cheek first to the person you are greeting and allow them to lead in how many kisses will be planted. This may vary from one quick peck to a whopping five!
Greece – Much like what many of us are used to in the U.S., Greeks will shake hands with their acquaintances and give a hug and a kiss to someone who they consider to me a friend. If you come across a situation where a two-cheek kiss is involved, don’t be surprised if you get a quick clap on the back, as well.
Italy, Spain and most of Europe – Most of Europe takes part in the custom that many of us are used to seeing in the movies: the quick two-cheek kiss. To avoid a meeting of the lips, remember to start with the right cheek first, and then move on to the left.
Germany – While you’ll still see the cheek kiss here, you’ll usually only see a single kiss rather than the two-cheek combo. One important detail to remember here however is that that the one-cheek kiss should take place on the left cheek in Germany.
The UK – While some people may choose to take the lead from neighboring European countries when it comes to the “kiss-kiss” greeting, if you’re planning to visit the UK and aren’t sure what to do, keep it simple. Nine times out of ten, a friendly handshake will do.
All in all, regardless of where you are, you can’t go wrong if you just allow the local to take the lead on your greeting to one another. Chances are, they’ll understand that you won’t be too familiar with their customs anyway and will willing take the responsibility off your hands. So just relax and roll with it!