How To Kiss A Spaniard

Published on 6/15/2010 in Spanish Culture

Kiss on the cheekSurely we've all been there. You go to do the usual kiss-on-the-cheek routine but you each go the wrong way and then you're practically kissing each other's lips with your respective other halves watching in shock.

What? It's never happened to you? I need to get out there and practice some more kissing then.

So what it is with all this kissing then when it comes to greeting someone in Spain? How do you kiss, who do you kiss and when do you kiss? Today I'm going to try and answer this enigma.

The Spanish can be an overly friendly bunch of people at times. I have women coming up to me all day trying to kiss my face off. Well, not quite but I often wonder who "needs" a kiss and is it rude not to kiss? Let's take some different scenarios.

1. Someone you know

This is a tricky one because you can't kiss someone you know every time you see them. If I bump into the same person in the village five time in one day, surely I'm not expected to kiss in each of those instances? I think kissing your friends is fine at least once per day. The rest of the time you probably don't need to do it any more.

2. Location

This one often intrigues me. I see the parents at the school gates collecting the kids. There is no kissing going on outside the school (well, at least not the parents). If afterwards I bump into one of the mum's that I know in the village then it's expected that we share some cheek time.

There is a definitely a time and a place for kissing.

3. Someone you don't know

I haven't quite fathomed this one out yet. I personally tend to go with whatever my "opponent" suggests at the time. Sometimes they extend their hand for a handshake (NOTE, it's not so that you pull them towards you for a kiss) other times they lean over for a kiss or two.

If in doubt let the other party take the initiative, especially if he or she is Spanish. It's second nature to them.

4. Someone non-Spanish

I met a Dutch lady recently who knows my partner, Susan. I really wan't sure what the etiquette should be in terms of our first encounter. Luckily she extended her hand out and I shook it before I had to decide what to do. I wondered at the time if it seemed rude that we didn't kiss. Saying that, the Germans and the French I've met have been very forthcoming in the kissing department, but not so much the British. Again, depends on the circumstances and how well you know them but if unsure, let them take the initiative.

Counting Kisses

Although we refer to these as "kisses" they are not really kisses as such. The idea is not to slobber over someone else's face and get all intimate with them. It's more of a brushing of cheeks with a little kiss in the air. I know, it sounds a bit naff but that's how it's done. You don't actually kiss them as such.

And one is not enough. Two kisses minimum, one on each cheek. Just let your Spanish friend dictate which side first!

The Hands

I often wonder what I'm supposed to do with my hands during these brief moments of friendship. I know what NOT to do with them but sometimes people leave their arms down, so there is no touching at all, whilst other times they may just touch the other person's arm during the "routine".

The safest bet is just to leave your arms dangling down beside you as you can't do anything silly like that.

Men Kissing Men

Yes, men kiss each other too! It think they tend to be either family or very close friends but you do see it and they often have a big hug too. I don't tend to see many of the Brits around here doing that unless they've had a fair few pints!

Big Deal

I've probably made more of a deal about all this kissing lark than was necessary but I truly believe that this part of greeting etiquette never gets talked about, so I felt it was time to bring it out into the open.

What are you kissing experiences in Spain? Let us know by leaving your comments below.

Written by: Justin Aldridge (EOS)

About the author:

Justin has been running Eye on Spain for over 5 years and recently with his partner Susan launched their popular moving to Spain video guide, Spain Uncut.

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chocolate59 said:
Thursday, November 7, 2019 @ 8:43 PM

I was invited to Italy for a summer by 2 boys in my high school from Napoli. Before I could even get in the door the mom whom I'd met started kissing me. I think I handled it well.
I met a girl on a train leaving Marseilles named Sylvie who was a student there who invited me to stay a while with her. She is half Catalan and took me to the Feste de Merce in 89. Jumping in the sparks was fun. We met another couple and there was the usual kissing I kissed the girl. Shook hands with the boy. Then we met 4 other couples to get ready to go out. It was an amazing spectacle with so much kissing going on at once maybe 50-60 in about 3-4 minutes with me being kissed by total stranger girls and not knowing if I should kiss the boys who were kissing each other. and the girls lining up to kiss Sylvie.

jam said:
Thursday, June 21, 2012 @ 1:56 AM

I am new to teaching Spanish students, had a class of two nice young ladies. At the end, I would never see them again and I offered to shake their hand and they forced me to do the kissing technique. I wasn't sure though when you do to touch their cheek with your lips or not? I did, they didn't seem to mind. One was particularly beautiful. She lifted her arms to embrace too but I just stood there like a stiff English man, oh well never will see them again.
If I ever did by any chance of fate, they are welcome to do this kissing technique again.
Being British and awkward is rubbish!

SpanishXpat said:
Thursday, June 9, 2011 @ 6:11 PM

I'm Spanish myself, and since I've lived in the UK for almost 20 years, I've noticed that I can come across a bit cold-ish when I'm in Spain.
If I meet somebody for the first time and I'm introduced I'll tend to shake hands (I am a man)
I only kiss other males in my family or very close male friends.
It is the custom that male kisses female; female kisses female; male shake hands with male.
When kissing in Spain normally is two kisses, one for each cheek.
All the above was for informal situations. In formal situations there's not much difference with the Brits.
Just try to go with the flow, remember that in the same way that you are trying to blend in, so may we, when introduced to a Brit, and I, for example know quite well British customs...

Matt said:
Monday, July 26, 2010 @ 8:18 PM

What about women at work? Some of them I kiss, but others don't have clear body language. I don't want to be offensive however, I just can't tell sometimes when to or not. The other day I heard "eso sin aceite" I think it was intended for me to hear. Funny such a simple thing can be embarrassing and awkward to not know when.

Matt said:
Monday, July 26, 2010 @ 8:00 PM

What about women at work? Some of them I kiss, but others don't have clear body language. I don't want to be offensive however, I just can't tell sometimes when to or not. The other day I heard "eso sin aceite" I think it was intended for me to hear. Funny such a simple thing can be embarrassing and awkward to not know when.

Adra04778 said:
Saturday, June 26, 2010 @ 10:04 PM

I find my Spanish friends tend to give me a kiss if I havent seen them for a couple of weeks, left cheek first, but I can't stand the Brits who want to kiss you all the time, and especially when I hardly know them, I do kiss my English friends, in UK or Spain, if they are my close friends, but only ever on one cheek, usually along with a hug.

Simone said:
Tuesday, June 22, 2010 @ 11:22 AM

This kissing this is quite funny really. I sometimes am unsure whether to kiss or not. My husband kisses everyone (female that is) BUT keeps putting his hand behind their' heads when he kisses them and I keep telling him that he shouldnt do that! Nightmare or what!?

carole said:
Monday, June 21, 2010 @ 1:57 PM

my comment!!!

I have lived in spain since 1963. I can totally accept the spanish custom of "kissing"

in the village where I live this rarely happens as we all see each other on a daily basis. my daughtr's in-laws- live a couple of villages away and when we meet we "kiss" ditto all the many sisters of my son-in-law. fine, all acceptable. lovely people.

I come from a close but not demonstrative family. when I meet expats who I hardly know, I do not want to "kissy, kissy" every time I see them. I have tried everything to get out of it ususally ending up being kissed either in my hair or ---worse!!!

Please someone tell me how to avoid this, and get across to the expats that it is a spanish custom only for people who know each other well. even the spaniards do not do this each time they see someone.


rob in bubble busted land madrid said:
Friday, June 18, 2010 @ 7:34 PM

the trick is, if the other person lifts their right hand towards your shoulder, give a kiss, if not shake a hand. Also I also touch the person shoulder when giving a kiss. I also happen to meet a lot of Americans and it always goes this way, first time a hand shake, after a few weeks always a kiss

mark said:
Tuesday, June 15, 2010 @ 8:08 PM

Which cheek first???

Justin said:
Tuesday, June 15, 2010 @ 6:45 PM

Yes, fair point RJ. I do overdo the excamation marks quite a lot and this one really wasn't necessary.


Finisterre said:
Tuesday, June 15, 2010 @ 5:46 PM

Also, fair point from RJ Tempest. :-) (

Finisterre said:
Tuesday, June 15, 2010 @ 5:45 PM

I have been assured it's quite rude NOT to kiss if it's the normal thing. I am happy to comply, but being English, I'm much more worried about kissing where it's unexpected than not doing it when it is expected, which I know is the wrong way to go about it here, but it's so ingrained! (

KP said:
Tuesday, June 15, 2010 @ 2:22 PM

Yes, it has always baffled me too. I kiss more people I don't know than my partner!!!!!!!!!

Bill Bertham said:
Tuesday, June 15, 2010 @ 2:06 PM

Hugging and kissing has been in my family as long as I can remember, and I am now 70! so it is nothing new, and all this took place in the UK. Must say though that I have had some funny looks when I have hugged my male relatives in public.
When we came to live in Calpe it was just natural for us to carry on with tradition but extending it to outside the family - love it!

rj.tempest said:
Tuesday, June 15, 2010 @ 11:41 AM

"Men Kissing Men - Yes, men kiss each other too!"

Why the exclamation mark Justin ?

Rosi Reed said:
Tuesday, June 15, 2010 @ 11:16 AM

Interesting article as lots of the clients we bring to South West Andalucia ask us about kissing (when, where, how). The only comment I have is when you say "brush of cheeks with a little kiss in the air" Not in Jerez! Maybe it's because this is the only truly integrated gitano/payo place I know and of course in gitano culture "air kissing" is just plain rude and weird, but in Jerez the kiss is on the face with a nice loud smacking kiss sound - or not at all. Men get a solid manly handshake and women a solid, well placed kiss.

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