Decoding Kissing Patterns

Another distinctive characteristic of our Arab culture is the unique way we greet each other. In the exception of some parts of Kuwait & UAE where they greet each other by knocking their noses together, Arab people tend to welcome each other by the act of placing a cheek next to a cheek and vacuuming off the air in your mouth and ultra-shrinking the size of your lips to make a "mwah" voice.

In western societies, the above "kissing" welcome is only witnessed among the females whereas men avoid physical contact and stick to the default raising eyebrows and a 3 word welcome of "you alright?" or "wussup amigo/homie/cuz/ my man/ buddy/dude?" that varies from a country to another.

Although Arab girls share their western counterparts in their similar greeting methods, the western man is usually left puzzled when he sees the complex different patterns that male Arabs greet each other. Sometimes it is not as simple as one kiss on the left and another one on the right.

Personally, I am among those who get confused especially each time I go to Amman to greet my family members. Each one can be identified by his kissing pattern much more accurately than DNA sample or fingerprint recognition. Here are few examples of the anomalies I faced:

Cousin A: Kiss on the left, two kisses on the right

Aunt's Husband A: left,right,left,right

Aunt's Husband B: left, right.

Uncle A: left, right, right,right,right,right,right

Uncle B: left,right, left and then he goes on a kissing combo spree that differs each time he sees you. Of course, this is directly proportional to the number of cigarette big packs you buy him from the duty free shop in the airport.

Uncle C: left, right, right, right, left, left.

Cousin B: Kiss on the left, kiss on the right and once you start withdrawing, he grabs you for a surprise last one that can be on either cheek (depending on his mood)


These are all the examples I have documented so far. I am still in my data collection phase of a much larger project; A project that I need because I discovered that my attempts of avoiding such confrontations has not been fruitful.

I dream of the day where we only use facial expressions or hand shaking to welcome each other rather than those complex kissing patterns.

But then you get to meet someone, like the case that happened with me 2 years ago, who refuses to shake hands justifying his decision saying: "I am not gonna shake with a hand that you might masturbate with"

You know what? I'll stick to raising eyebrows.


Sam said...

o i hate the kissing is so annoying! it is ok if you have not seen the person for a while...but in amman people want to kiss every freakin time they see u...i'll see them at 10am...kiss kiss...then again at 5pm and kiss kiss..again at 10am and it is kiss kiss again. sooo annoying!

NoNoWa said...

I know what ya mean! I have the same problem with family and friends. I never know how many and where!! And each nationality is different than the other...

I am good with one left, one right- and thats enuf, but no they suck u into a kissing marathon and u dont know which way to go!! :P

i have alot of the problem like u do with ur Cousin B- surprise kissing- yep u just never know....

And that part abt the hand shaking- total EWwwwwwwwwwwww!! But good point in the end, I guess.....

dishevelled said...

LOL! Omg I get confused everytime I greet someone, and I have a major lack of concentration and very short memory to remember who kisses how :P

In Saudi they kiss god knows how many times but only on the right cheek, they don't switch sides. After the kissing you shake their hand! lol.

I'm told in Lebanon it's three, right, left, right.

Personally I wish they'd standardize it and just make it one on the right :P

Do what I do - go with the flow :P

Anonymous said...

U know what's even worse? When they actually put their lips on your cheek! eeww why can't they do it in the air?

KJ said...

Elijah - you don't like lips on the cheek?! omg!

I've had my share of incorrect kissing that resulted in lip to lip contact.

Not very pleasant when you're convincing others you're not mon7aref

Kinano said...

You obviously haven't been to Syria!

Greeting people in Syria is a complicated formula with a gazillion variables. The number of times you kiss someone is directly proportional to how close this person is (mega-proportional if it were a relative), when was the last time you met, gender, age, social class, number of friends in common, physical proximity (distance, height, weight..etc.), physical attractiveness, potential hidden agendas, religion (in certain cases), annual income and the list goes on and on and on.

A simple greeting could range between a simple handshake to a 15 minutes kiss-fest!

Suddenly Jordan doesn't seem so bad, does it?! :P

KJ said...

Kinan, you let me come over to read THIS

Anonymous said...

It depends who's doing the kissing ;)

O c'mon you mean it's not disgusting when someone from the same gender puts their lips on ur cheek? I cannot do it, I can't even stand their cheeks touching mine!

Jundi said...

hehe did you see the seinfeld episode where he decides he won't do the kiss greeting thing anymore :D

The Observer said...

Kisses combo! lol! That was fun!

I hate those who really kiss hard with all their full mouth on your cheek! ewww

Hamza said...

sam - and not just at greeting. It is at saying goodbye too

nonowa - I wish they standardize it and make one left, one right or whatever. I hate surprises like the ones brought by Cousin B

dishevelled - lool. Yesterday I met a friend of mine who I haven't seen in a long time and I was trying to go with the flow and the first thing he said in 4 years is "you kiss like saudis"

elijah - I think they are indirectly saying "remember my lipstick, bitch" :P

KJ- LMAO, I know its extremely difficult in your case especially since you are a former russian prostitute for the KGB. Well, at least it was a noble cause. :D

Kinan- wow, will we see a future phD paper? :P

jundi- loool. I love seinfield, but I haven't seen that episode

observer- I rarely had one of those. I hope it doesn't leave a saliva mark on your cheek. :P

eshda3wa said...

european men greet eachother with kissing too
the italians and the french, 3ade they all do it

and i dont want it to stop
it makes ppl warm and welcoming and not afraid of physical contact

7aki Fadi said...


My uncles wife ibtotbosh my face when she kisses me, she like attacks it man ... LOL... ouch ya3ni , she like bumps her cheeck into mine and it hurts.. she has a boney face... ouch ouch ouch.

Ms Loala said...

I hate people who actually kiss your cheeks and leave traces of their saliva! egggh! =\

Hamza said...

eshda3wa - oh interesting to know that about europeans. But I am sure that they have a uniform agreed upon pattern..not like us. :P

7aki Fadi - lol..yea she is classified under the "hyper" genre. I don't envy you at all.

ms loala - first you should identify those people and greet them when you are sweating. That's the best punishmenet ever. ;)

MacaholiQ8 said...

LMAO! You beat me to it! I was about to post ranting about the same thing. God knows how much I hate family gatherings just because of this issue. :/

Anonymous said...

You know when I moved back to Finland and I explained the way Kuwaiti men would be greeting each other! They thought it was so strange! They said a man would never kiss a man unless he’s gay! I did think about how all the world are looking at the Arabs and thinking; ????

How do you feel as getting you face touching your friend’s face? Or sometimes when a man puts his lips on your cheek??