By John Ensor •
Published: 11 Dec 2023 • 17:25
A kiss at a social gathering.
Credit: Ground Picture/Shutterstock.com
Have you ever wondered about the origins of Spain’s two-kiss greeting? This warm and friendly gesture, deeply ingrained in Spanish culture, offers a fascinating glimpse into the nation’s history and societal values.
Rooted in Roman and Christian traditions, the two-kiss greeting in Spain dates back to Roman times, with National Geographic highlighting three distinct types of kisses from that era, writes Telecinco.
The ‘Osculum’ was a cheek kiss shared among friends, the ‘Basium’ was a lip kiss between spouses, and the ‘Suavem’ was reserved for lovers.
Christianity later played a pivotal role in solidifying the cheek kiss in cultural practices, even integrating it into sacred texts.
In Spain, this practice, primarily shared between women or between men and women, signifies equality and cordiality.
Far from being a mere formality, it conveys respect and affection, highlighting the open-hearted nature of Spanish society.
There are subtle but important rules to this greeting. Typically, it starts on the right cheek, and while the approach is cheek-to-cheek, actual lip contact is reserved for very close relationships. Across Spain, the enthusiasm of this greeting can vary, reflecting diverse local customs.
This intimate form of greeting in Spain contrasts with other countries’ practices, which reflect their unique views on personal space and social relationships.
For instance, in France, the number of kisses ranges from two to four depending on the region. The Netherlands and Belgium often use three cheek kisses.
In Asia, greetings range from bows in Japan and Korea, symbolizing respect, to nods or handshakes in China.
Middle Eastern cultures frequently use cheek kisses, sometimes more than two, particularly among men, as a sign of friendship.
Africa’s diverse cultures showcase greetings from traditional singing and dancing to prolonged handshakes with special gestures.
Similarly, Latin American greetings often involve a single cheek kiss or hugs, reflecting the warmth of these societies.
Southeast Asia also displays varied greetings, like Thailand’s ‘wai’, a bow with palms together, and the Philippines’ tradition of showing respect to elders by bringing their hand to one’s forehead.
The Maori in New Zealand, the ‘hongi’ is a traditional greeting in which noses and foreheads are pressed together – is a significant gesture of sharing the ‘breath of life.’
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Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina.
He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.
Left cheek first
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