Swine Flu Dampens Lebanese Kissing Custom

The swine flu hasn’t hit Lebanon yet, but it’s already threatening the national custom of the kiss greeting. Lebanese kiss each three times upon meeting. Health Minister Mohammad Khalifeh, however, said his people should stop kissing to prevent the spread of swine flu. “If you visit someone, don’t exchange kisses … Let’s stop the social kissing habit.” Israel, which shares a border with Lebanon, confirmed a case of swine flu Tuesday. [Reuters]

The U.S. is one of a few countries in which kissing isn’t part of a greeting — unless you’re really familiar with the person. So, we wondered how the rest of the world says hello. Buenos Aires: One peck, right cheek to right cheek, when greeting and departing will suffice. Kiss everyone who is a friend or acquaintance, including colleagues, but not your dentist.

Paris: The four kiss greeting reigns supreme! But unlike in most parts of the world, you start with the left cheek. It’s unnecessary to kiss the cheek of a superior. Men can get away with not kissing each other hello, which is reserved for close friends or family.

The Netherlands: Start with the right cheek and kiss three times. You should end on the same cheek you started with.

Italy: Kiss only very close friends or family.

Belgium: People of similar age kiss each other once. However, they kiss three times if one person is at least 10 years older.

Spain: Spanish people stick to the two kiss tradition, but always start on the right cheek.

Germany: Germans prefer to shake hands and reserve kissing for family and close friends.

United Kingdom: People in the UK are rather shy about physical contact and prefer a handshake or a nod as a greeting. Some have started extending the kiss outside of family and friends.

China: Don’t hug or kiss anyone in China that you don’t know. No PDA’s. It’s inappropriate to kiss your significant other in public, but you can hold hands with someone of your own sex.

Animals that kiss (according to Cricket magazine): Chimpanzees greet each other with little pecks or widemouthed kisses, and they kiss to make up after a fight. Prairie dogs kiss each other when they meet to determine whether they’re family or strangers. “Kissing gouramis” fish press their mouths together like suction cups.