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A Gentleman’s Guide to Kissing Strangers


You’ve been lauded for your handshake since you were a teen. A beautiful union of eye contact, pressure and two perfect pumps. But the world is a diverse and sometimes nefarious place full of French women, Argentine men, Real Housewives, wealthy grandmothers, amputees... none of whom care about your handshake.

This week is especially dangerous: it’s Fashion Week, when New York City will be flooded with designers, Europeans, the wealthy, people who have become wealthy via designing things in Europe... In short, you’re going to need this more than ever:

The gentleman’s guide to the cheek kiss.

Know the Signs: It’s important to look for signals. Nine times out of 10, you can spot a kisser a mile away. Are they French? (If so, you may be in for rounds and rounds. Hold on tight.) How about that nice old Jewish lady who’s always offering to feed you? Yes, of course. Your girlfriend’s mother? Who the hell knows?

Remain Vigilant: Look for a proffered cheek or an abnormally-slow-hug lead-in. Seventy-two percent of cheek kissers get into trouble during the latter. (If you misread the pacing, you’ll end up with your face somewhere down by the back of her neck.) Place your right hand on the person’s left shoulder. There’s no need to grapple—just a light grasp will suffice. This initial contact is just a warm-up.

Go With the Flow: So, science tip: two people cannot simultaneously kiss one another on the cheek—the lips just don’t have that kind of side-to-side maneuverability. Which means you’re gonna let them kiss you. Most seasoned kissers of cheek go to the right side first, but whatever you do, make sure you smartly zig when the other person zags. Think Keanu Reeves in The Matrix dodging bullets. Then, just hold out your cheek and wait.

Kiss Back: As your newest friend kisses you, return the favor with a quiet kissing noise. Note the word quiet. This is not a theatrical “muah” (that would just be tacky). Make the noise with your lips, not your vocal chords.

And that’s it. You’re officially a tad more cosmopolitan, slightly less afraid of your mother-in-law, and a bit better equipped for your next trip to France.

And classy. You’ve got class for days.