Who you can kiss and who you can hold hands with: rules of meeting etiquette

Yulia PoteriankoLife
You should be especially careful when greeting someone for the first time

Greeting is a very important ritual to make a good impression. But we don't even think about how nuanced it can be, given the local culture, the relationship between most of the people present, and other circumstances. For example, a person who finds himself in the company of French people may be seriously embarrassed by the fact that strangers start kissing him on the cheeks. In France, this gesture is generally accepted and is not considered a violation of personal boundaries. While in Muslim countries such a gesture can be considered even as obscene behavior, especially towards a woman.

OBOZREVATEL tried to understand the subtleties of the greeting ritual. And give recommendations on how to behave so as not to accidentally cause unnecessary discomfort.


This is the most formal of the gestures used for greeting. It will be appropriate even when talking to strangers. Etiquette experts call it the "olive branch" of all greetings. By extending your hand, you demonstrate your readiness to establish contact with a person and invite him to decide for himself whether he wants to reciprocate.

At the same time, an outstretched hand to some extent obliges your vis-a-vis to reciprocate - refusal is often perceived as a manifestation of rudeness. Therefore, if no one in the company where you are, no one greets you in this way, you should refrain from doing so, even if you are used to initiating a handshake and do it automatically.

Situations when it is appropriate to shake hands:

  • When meeting someone for the first time;
  • when you need to say hello to someone you know and don't see too often;
  • when you are saying goodbye to someone you greeted with a handshake;
  • when you are introducing a person to an audience, greeting them and giving them the floor (e.g., introducing a speaker at a public event) or vice versa - you are the one being introduced;
  • when you sit down at a table with strangers - you should first shake hands with everyone, and only then you can sit down.

How to properly shake hands:

  • don't try to "squeeze" your vis-a-vis - don't squeeze the hand too hard, but also don't relax the hand completely to the state of a "dead fish";
  • don't pull your vis-a-vis toward you to pat him or her on the shoulder or cover the person's hand with your other hand - these are dominant gestures, especially inappropriate when greeting a stranger;
  • don't wait for someone to reach out to you - feel free to say hello first, the rules of the older-younger or male-female format are outdated, nowadays the initiative can come from anyone as long as the handshake is appropriate;
  • if you see that no one in a new company is shaking hands, follow suit.


Social hugging can be appropriate even in a business environment, but only on one condition: both people who greet in this way agree to such a gesture. That is, you should definitely not rush with hugs on strangers.

If it seems to you that your vis-a-vis can be okay with it, but you are not sure about it, just open your arms and wait for a reaction. If a person shows that he is not ready for such a gesture, replace it with a handshake - this will avoid awkwardness. In an informal setting, it is also appropriate to ask, "Can I give you a hug?"

For those who do not like hugs, etiquette experts advise to be proactive during the greeting and give a hand first. This way, the person will immediately realize that this gesture is more acceptable to you.

Kiss on the cheek

In some countries this gesture is very popular and it is considered appropriate to kiss even strangers. In others, it is seen as a blatant violation of the rules of decorum. And in a business environment, it can be seen as an attempt at harassment and a violation of business ethics. Social kissing should therefore be handled with extreme caution.

Kissing during greetings is appropriate only with people you know well enough and have established this gesture as a rule. And in a business environment, even with loved ones can be kissed only in semi-formal circumstances - during a business lunch or at festive events. In an office environment, any kissing is unacceptable.

Earlier OBOZREVATEL told how the rules of business etiquette have changed, taking into account the greater equality of men and women.

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