03/13/2013 12:02 EDT | Updated 05/13/2013 05:12 EDT

Sticky Situation: An Air-Kissing How-To

Getty Images
An unidentified Lebanese officer (R) bids farewell to head of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon General Rustom Ghazaleh during a military ceremony at a Lebanese army air base in Rayaq 26 April 2005. The last Syrian troops crossed the border back home, ending a 29-year presence in Lebanon and ushering in a new era for Syria's tiny neighbour. AFP PHOTO/PATRICK BAZ (Photo credit should read PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Sticky situation:

Help! I got air-kissed and ended up butting noses. That was awkward and embarrassing...

I just got a promotion as regional director for one of Canada's leading retailers. I am a 26-year-old woman. Eastern Canada is my region.

The incident happened during my first road trip with my boss, when he introduced me to one of our senior store managers. I put out my hand, he looked in my eyes and then quickly shifted to my right cheek. He pulled me in to peck, not only once but twice, on each cheek. I was surprised. Startled, I moved and it caused a nose collision. The manager and my boss laughed while I nervously giggled.

What is the protocol on air-kissing, who goes first and on which side? Better yet, how do I avoid this altogether?


In our multicultural country, your question is relevant. There are all kinds of greetings out there, including these funny versions of the handshake by Oatmeal. Any one of those could also present a Sticky Situation.

In 2013, the global contemporary workplace's universal greeting of choice is still the handshake.

The folkloric beginnings of this salutation are credited to knights. As they acknolwedged one another and sealed agreements, they grasped each other's right hand; the preferred hand of choice for the use of weapons. By gripping each other, they confirmed the absence of daggers and ultimately intentions of goodwill.

To this day, this peace symbol is still the prized photograph by paparazzi during any world leaders' meeting.

Canada's modern business society recognizes everyone as equal, without gender or cultural distinctions. Hence, all should generally shake hands.

Now for the Sticky Situation, what do you do when someone puckers up and is going for an air-kiss?

The general guideline for etiquette is: "when in Rome do as Romans do."

With that in mind you may wish to adapt your usual business greeting. Follow your host's lead and air-kiss in the arts world, when visiting socially in French Canada or when it is the custom within the organization.

To maintain a professional demeanour, you can also choose to re-establish the balance by not leaning in and presenting your right hand. Yes, it will be awkward. But, if that is how you feel most comfortable when greeting your business connections, it is acceptable. Make sure to carry on positively so as not to stretch the malaise.

As far as the air-kiss protocol goes, it should be:

  1. Lean in to the left.
  2. Almost make right-cheek-to-right-cheek contact.
  3. Purse your lips and kiss the air.
  4. Repeat to the right.
  5. End heart-to-heart.

In business, avoid full contact and "smooching" sounds.

The origins of la bise are related to physical well-being. Family members, greeting each other, could detect digestive or health problems based on the smell of the body or the breath.

Now that you know the step-by-step guide for air-kissing, forget about it. Really. Most people are not aware of it. You just have to wait, observe and go with the flow. Voilà! C'est la vie.