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April 7th, 2009:

Why Europe Sucks €3. Cheek kissing

italian man

Pucker up! I just want to say "Hello"

They say that cheek-kissing greetings are a longstanding cultural tradition that shows the openness and hospitality of Southern European culture.  

This is hogwash.

Greeting someone by a kissing them on the cheek is much more intimate than a normal handshake, and also forces you to lean in and get a good whiff of the other person’s scent.

In a place as cursedly hot and shower-deprived as the Mediterranean, do you really think that people would go through the motions of kissing perfect strangers on the cheek after a long hot day just for culture’s sake? Of course not.

The truth of the matter is that, by and large, Southern European men a quite fond of the ladies, and they are keeping the cheek-kissing tradition alive became it gives them carte blanche to kiss every woman they meet.

That’s right. Cheek kissing is nothing more than cultural oddity kept alive for the sake of womanizing.

Don’t get me wrong. You’ll see people greeting old women, hot, sticky men and business colleagues alike with a kiss on a cheek. But that is just because those Southern European men are committed to keeping this tradition alive. They are nothing if not committed. As any traveler who has been to Southern Europe or France will tell you, the men there always seem to grip the waist more firmly and let the “simple cheek kiss” linger longer on young, pretty women.

So next time you’re traveling in Europe, go ahead and call their bluff. Simply offer your hand to the numerous smelly men who will insist on a greeting kiss. They already think that Americans are crass anyway, so you won’t be offending them. Besides, you know the whole cheek-kissing thing is a sham. 

Thanks to Evan B for the suggestion!

*Poor Michelle Obama. She had endure a cheek kiss from French President Nicolas Sarkosy, and she didn’t look to happy about it. The things people do for their country.**

**Note, in that same picture, you don’t see President Obama trying to cop a feel on Carla Bruni. No sir, a simple hand shake will do.  


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