Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A kiss on the cheek

So  as you know, I am from Norway. We are not known for being the warmest people in the world. I think Norwegian people are friendly and welcoming (and I have also heard that from foreigners visiting) however we are a little reserved at first. Some would even say cold, but that sounds horrible, so I’ll go with reserved.

We are all about our private space you see. He have this invisible little circle around us, I would say a comfortable one goes about 40-50 cm outwards, where we are not sure we want you to enter. Not until we know you a little better. When we are comfortable around you and know who you are, or even we have just met you oncebefore but have a feel of who you are, you are free to enter as much as you want. Hugs, touching- whatever works. But normally not the first time we meet you.  

When we meet someone for the first time, let’s say we are introduced to someone, the normal thing is… to give them our hand. A good firm hand-shake is the proper way to introduce yourself to someone you don’t know in Norway. This is our way of showing respect while it might be interpreted as being distant and cold. Since we like to take things slow, we autimatically do the same to others, aka the hand-shake. 
We might also, just say hi and wave a little.
So how does it work in Spain? Forget about the hand. That’s RUDE. Don’t ever give your hand when you meet someone socially for the first time in Spain!

Nope, here you have to step right into that personal circle I talked about, put your cheek on the other persons cheek, give them a kiss (in the air or on the cheek) and repeat the action on the other side of the head.
I am talking about the first time you meet them! I will be honest, it was a bit of a shock to me at first. I was like “what in the world are you getting in my face about, I just saw you for the first time 2 seconds ago and you hug and kiss me as if there’s no tomorrow! 


It seems woman and woman should greet like this. Also men and woman. With men and men however it's a little more diffuse; unless they are really close they put one hand on the shoulder of the other guy and shake the other hand while almost hugging. A sort of mix between a handshake and a hug.


I had the kiss-on-the-cheek-thing happening when I was looking at flats here in Barcelona. Looking at flats! Greeting the people in the flats this way. Even at one flat, I was on my way to out the door when another girl came in to look at the same flat. She just simply grabbed my shoulder and kissed my cheeks as the most natural thing while saying hola… 
...and I was just leaving, and it was at a flat-viewing and I would never talk to her nor see her again!!! Do you see my point?

But I must say it’s fun too. I think it’s so eye-opening and interesting to learn another country’s culture. It makes you learn and realize that just because you have been doing things a certain way your whole life it doesn’t mean it’s the correct way for the rest of the world. 
It makes me feel humble and curious to learn more, and the feeling of being attacked ceased quickly when I realized it was the most natural thing to do. Haha! Everyone does it... So, while it doesn't bother me, I still have to get used to this, cause it just dosen't come naturally for me to kiss people on the cheeks the first time I meet them!

Ah, and when the greeting is over…don’t get too comfortable, cause when you say goodbye you have to repeat the process again!

I need to practice to look something more like this when I meet&greet someone....


 …and while googling for pictures to use for this post I actually found a YouTube-video explaining cheek-kissing!!

How is this where you live? I love to see these differences between Norway and Spain, but I would love to hear from people in other countries too! Would't mind hearing some opinions from fellow Norwegians on the subject either...


  1. Haha, det er akkurat det samme her ! I starten syntes jeg at det var utrolig merkelig, men nå gjør det meg ingenting. Synes egentlig det er ganske koselig. Og det er praktisk hvis du er med noen du kjenner godt og noen du har hilst på bare én gang. Hvordan skal du da si hei i Norge? Du klemmer vennen din selvfølgelig og så blir det litt sånn småkleint mens du prøver å finne ut av hva du skal gjøre med den andre. I Frankrike er det kyss på begge kinn til begge to. Enkelt og greit (:

  2. Haha, godt poeng! 2 kyss til allemann, ingen forskjellsbehandling ;)

  3. How interesting! (When I read this the lyrics 'a kiss on the hand might be quite continental but diamonds are a girls best friend' went off in my head!) Weird! In Fiji in a traditional space, men and women may shake hands, but women will probably hug/kiss each other. But it's so diverse and differs from place to place, always so interesting though :)

  4. Ohoi! Det hadde jeg ikke vært komfortabel med! Et enkelt håndtrykk er veldig greit. Men så liker vi jo å klemme og sånt når vi blir bedre kjent, som du skriver!

  5. Vanisha, now that song is on my mind too! Thanks for sharing Fiji-ways! Would women kiss the first time they meet/are introduced?
    We are all about hugging friends when we meet, but normally not when introduced.

    Siri, yes følte meg litt invadert når jeg var på visning og hun som kom inn da jeg skulle gå hugg tak i skuldera mi og kyssa meg på kinna...

  6. I'd say around here it's mostly hand shaking. There's also hugging, it kind of depends on the situation I suppose.

  7. Australians do a lot of cheek kissing too and it always makes me a bit uncomfortable at first!

  8. Krysten, up in Norway we hug a lot, just normally not the first time we meet. And we never kiss cheeks!

    And Deidre, I understand you haha!

  9. Well, not exactly :-D

    Cheek-kissing (more 'head-banging', as it`s a cheek contact with a kiss thrown to the air) is a... well, a 'girlie' thing.

    However, it's always fun to fight back - when I was introduced to a girl, I used to offer my hand and lock the elbow; so, if she tried to dive in for the cheek-kissing she found stopped at a 'safe' distance :-D

    When introduced to a man, just a brief handshake - no need to get sissy... :-D

    1. I get cheek kisses from both men and women, all the time. How interesting that you prefer not to, I feel the same :P
      It can be a little overwhelming for me still, when it's a big group of people and you 'have to' do the air kisses both when you say hello AND goodbye! And I feel it might be seens as rude and weird if I just go for a quick wave and a hello/goodbye...