Cultural differences – hugging & kissing


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Who doesn’t like a hug & kiss, right?  Well, it appears that there are vast cultural differences when it comes to undertaking these lovely, tactile ways of expressing pleasure or love.

Back in 2012, I was having dinner with a lovely bunch of North Americans on the Greek island of Ithaca. We’re all writers or wannabe ones and are attending the great Homeric Writers Retreat here.  Now, as my regular followers will know, I have lived in Greece coming up to 5 years now and I am used to the tactile way of the Mediterranean countries: we kiss each other twice (once on each cheek) when we greet, say goodbye.  We hug a lot, we touch a lot IE: on the arm, on the knee (particularly when we’re passionate about our topic, we get rather excitable).

Would you consider this greeting intrusive?
Would you consider this greeting intrusive?

But I forget other cultures are not comfortable with this – and it’s such a pity!  A lovely, youngish American girl asked me if homosexuality was rampant and more acceptable in Greece.  I was confused…I asked her to elaborate – she explained about seeing men hugging, women kissing or touching each other.

I explained how we (wow, listen to me…I’m referring to myself as Greek) behave in Mediterranean countries and how less enclosed, more open to life we are here.
People from the UK and Northern Europe are quite bad with expressing themselves,  they’re quite reserved.
Any feelings about how you greet people in your own country?  Do you prefer your own personal space, or are you happy for someone to greet you as shown in my photos?

Other links on this topic: Greetings in other cultures – Bruce Van Patter
Greetings around the world: Kiss, hug or shake hands?


  1. If I am in another place and I am greeted after the manner of the country, I am delighted, though I would never presume to initiate it myself. For one thing, I cannot know enough of the cultural and class nuances to feel confident that I am not committing some gaucherie. It is much more prudent to be gracious and composed when meeting someone than to attempt to be “natural”, as the point of all culture is to lift us out of the state of nature. And anyway, if the subtext is actually sex even that is more enjoyable when it is pursued in the face of constraints, either real or only conventional. It is a game and all games benefit from rules, especially those that give us wide room to maneuver.