How do you greet work colleagues and clients? Does a handshake suffice, or do you occasionally go in for a peck on the cheek for certain people? Apparently, cheek-kissing has become so common in workplaces that the German Knigge Society is calling for a ban on it! Apparently the group, which acts as an etiquette watchdog, was called to action after being inundated with queries from workers who were unsure how to respond to a greeting that involved a kiss.
“There should be no kissing, at least not in the office,” group leader Hans-Michael Klein says. “The suspicion for many remains that there is, or may be, an erotic component to the kissing. Kissing simply gets on the nerves of many at work. It is a form of terror. In business the handshake is considered the correct greeting ritual.”
I would hardly call kissing “a form of terror,” but I could see how going in for a peck on the cheek could cause some awkwardness. Kissing someone hello may be more common in my native France, but it in the States I often see people who are puzzled by what the proper protocol is. Do the lips actually make contact, or should you kiss the air? Do you kiss one cheek or both? And how do you recover from a situation in which you lean in and the other person sticks out his or her hand?
I think the safest option is to stick with a handshake. If you have a client or colleague with whom you have a friendly rapport with, a peck may be fine, but wait for them to make the move. Body language will give you a good idea of their intentions—are they open, or tense and restrained? Aim for their right cheek to avoid an awkward collision, and kiss the air to the left of their face rather than actually planting your lips on their skin. Most people in the States will only “kiss” one cheek, not both. If you’re at a company party or more formal affair, you can also wait back and observe how the host greets his or her guests so you will be ready.
And don’t forget to pop a breath mint! If your breath isn’t fresh, a kiss really could be a “terror”!