The air kiss

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Digital Vision/Digital Vision/GettyImages

, Last Updated: 3:07 PM ET

Despite being British-born, a country where kissing and hugging is generally frowned on, despite that they celebrate National Kissing Day on July 6, I'm a born social kisser and inveterate hugger.

I'm always careful, though, to watch a person's body language and if they recoil in some way, I quickly back off and shake hands.

"That's the best way to deal with it," says Czink, "but some people just don't realize they've made a mistake until it's too late."

What to do then? I ask.

Apologize, she says.

It's true that most men, especially businessmen, prefer you to shake their hand even if they've met you a number of times.

Hugs are usually saved for friends, people you have an ongoing relationship with in some way and as a comfort or celebratory gesture to either sex.

Women are far more flexible than men about social kissing each other.

Often they hardly touch any skin at all.

They either do the well-known fashion world "air kiss" where they purse their lips and go side to side not even touching each other's cheeks, or the "butterfly kiss" where the contact is minimal.

TIP: When moving in for that social kiss, it's essential to keep a careful eye on the other person's movements so that you don't end up crashing into each other's noses.

Some countries start the social kiss on the right cheek but in others it's important to make the first kiss on the left of the double, treble or quadruple kiss (see sidebar on countries' social kiss habits).

TIP: When giving the social kiss -- make sure you know where your hands are.

TIP: Don't grab the other person in any way as to be overpowering and threatening to them. If you must touch, place a gentle hand on the opposite shoulder to the kiss or just below the shoulder or lightly grip the person's arm at the elbow.

TIP: Keep your distance. No-one wants body contact during a social kiss so lean your head over and out when delivering it.

TIP: Do it quickly. A social kiss isn't an excuse to make a lingering move on someone you're attracted to.

Why are people kissing each other more?

"We're loosening up in our connecting with each other," says Czink, "and as we become more multicultural, we're copying other cultures' behaviour."


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