Is cheek kissing the new handshake?

More Americans seem to do cheek kissing in business settings. Via Flickr user jimforest.

More Americans seem to do cheek kissing in business settings. Via Flickr user jimforest.

As Americans, we love our personal space as much as our reality TV shows.

We want personal space whenever possible, and lots of it. In business, a brisk handshake suffices. Hugs are reserved for family, though some people also embrace friends.

From my (limited) international business experience, I can tell cheek kissing is common in Latin American business settings. Not only have I received a cheek kiss, but there have even been times when it is accompanied by an embrace of sorts.

Like I said, we Americans love our personal space. (Just look at a typical grocery store line. We stand a mile apart from each other.) That’s why I’m surprised to see more and more Americans doing the cheek kiss.The cheek kiss has long been thought of as a personal practice in America. If you do it to anyone, you do it with family. But lately, I’ve had Americans give me the cheek kiss in business settings.

A strange aspect of it is that the side kiss (at least between Americans) is done only between men and women and between women. Men don’t seem to do it to men. They’re left with a stiff handshake. Does this custom hold true for other countries?

Perhaps more Americans seem to adopt the cheek kiss in professional settings because of our increased business relations with Latin America. U.S. companies continue to open Latin American offices, and more people from those countries are working here. In general, we’re interacting with our southern neighbors more than ever before.

People learn Spanish to communicate with Latin Americans. Maybe doing the cheek kiss is an extension of us trying to embrace their business customs, even if it means breaking the personal space many Americans feel.

Have you noticed the proliferation of cheek kissing? How do you feel about the cheek kiss?

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