Cheek Kissing

National confession: Finns don't do cheek kisses well

Our everyday life is full of different kinds of cultural crashes which may lead to embarrassing situations. For Finns, definitely the most awkward situation passes by when our south-European companion leans toward us in order to give a harmless greeting kiss.

Cheek kissing is a standard greeting all around Europe. It is a ritual or social gesture to indicate friendship. In a cheek kiss, both persons lean forward and either lightly touch cheek with cheek or lip with cheek.

Whereas, finnish people really seem to have an issue with cheek kissing. Kissing between friends has never been a part of the finnish greeting rituals. We prefer shake hands, nod politely or if it's about a really good friend, we may even give a hug - but never cheek kisses.

This may seem as a little bit odd and even cold behavior to other cultures. Let it be Russians, Greeks, Americans or even Swedes, they all greet with kisses. So what's wrong with us Finns?

These days greeting is such an unpredictable thing. How do you greet someone with all this diversity and variety of different kinds of habits in our global world? Sometimes you put your hand out for a handshake, and you end up surprised being hugged.

But what are we so afraid of? What is the worst that could happen? For example, you lean in for a hug and end up cheek kissing. Confused by the change of greeting style the journey from one cheek to the other feels too overwhelming. At this point you may also get confused by the amount of kisses: one, two, three or even more??!!! What if your lips end up kissing alone?

Despite this horror scenario there is still some hope left. The thing isn't that we don't like cheek kissing, but we're still at the elementary level in practicing it. So, for those who happen to read this article, do not hesitate greeting Finns with cheek kisses. Deep down inside, Finns are craving for intimacy.


Ida hakola, Varpu Salo