The Kiss

Photodisc/Photodisc Green/GettyImages

Photodisc/Photodisc Green/GettyImages

VALERIE GIBSON, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:09 AM ET

To kiss or not to kiss ... that is the question. Social smooches have replaced the handshake in many circles.

You see the awkwardness every day. People meet -- sometimes for the first time -- and they panic. What to do? Should they shake their hand or kiss them on the cheek? In fact, some people visibly recoil as they realize this unknown person is moving in to kiss them. Worse, they might even want a hug!

It's become a universal dilemma. Especially in a nation such as Canada where public personal contact with strangers or semi-strangers is rarely welcome or encouraged. Years ago, everyone shook hands. Now the European-style kiss on each cheek -- also known as the "social kiss" -- is de rigeur. And hugging happens more often nowadays it seems.

But when is it, well, truly de rigeur? Should you kiss everyone you meet? Should you kiss people you don't know? How about kissing someone you've met a couple of times? What about married people? What about work colleagues? And is kissing the boss a big no-no?

Aagh! Why can't people keep it simple and just use the universal and impersonal handshake like they used to?

"There's no question that some people consider the social kiss an invasion of their personal space," says Adeodata Czink, president of Business Manners, a Toronto company that teaches business etiquette, "and if you not sure whether to do it, then don't."

Czink says it's better to "err on the safe side" by shaking hands than risking upsetting someone.

She points out that the social kiss is offensive in some cultures while in others, especially European nations, it's expected, especially after the first meeting.

"Hugs are different," Czink replies to my query as to when to hug someone.

"They're a personal warmth between two people, but again you have to judge by a person's body language whether they will welcome it. It's all about recognizing boundaries. Most people lean back and stiffen and extend their hand if they don't want either a kiss or a hug."


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