The Art of the Social Kiss

The holidays are a time for a lot of meeting and greeting. Holiday parties, cocktail parties and family gatherings all pose the same problem: perfecting the art of the social kiss.

The whole business of social kissing was invented by the French, who turned it into an art form. Yet even in Paris, the view is that the whole practice might be getting a little out of hand.

These days even in the most bohemian of settings, the double-kiss on the cheek is mandatory.

When you arrive, you kiss everybody hello. When you leave, you kiss everybody goodbye. Women kiss women. Women kiss men. Men kiss men.

Determining whether to kiss or not to kiss surely isn't an exact science, but there are rules of proper etiquette.

For example, people actually shouldn't kiss the cheek at all.

"You kiss the air and you do a movement; so, it looks like you kissed," said Constance Rietzler director of La Belle Ecole in Paris.

Rietzler's etiquette school teaches the proper art of the social kiss. In fact, it even has a lesson on the double-double kiss, which is practiced only in the south of France.

"I'm not sure it's very widely used. I think it's probably reserved for the French," London party organizer Marina Fogle said.

According to the school, a kiss on the hand is reserved for married women only and you don't actually kiss the hand, unless you are planning to seduce her.

Also, remember to offer to kiss the right check first.

The rules may be difficult to remember, especially since they are different for different cultures.

Latins tend to go straight into the kiss as soon as you've met, but Americans are a bit more reserved.

And if learning the art of the social kiss is too much for you, you can always opt for the American staple: the handshake.

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