A Professional Peck On The Cheek

Bill Ridgers considers the complexities of greeting colleagues with a kiss:

In Britain, as with most of my compatriots, I am solidly in the one-kiss camp. But for a day or two after returning to London from France, I find myself instinctively puckering up for more, which can be awkward. (Although it does not present quite the same peril as trying to remember which way to drive around a roundabout, another thing it sometimes takes me a couple of days to relearn.) To complicate matters further, the way that Brits greet one another is evolving; we are slowly moving from a one-kiss society to two. When people with incompatible greeting strategies meet, the result can sometimes be a never-ending dance of thrust and withdraw.

Still, it is in business circles that offering a cheek becomes most fraught with danger. Some rules of engagement are obvious: one would never peck on first introduction, for example, no matter where in the world you were. But it is also best not to appear too stuffy or aloof. So with continental contacts, you can probably relax into the informal greeting pretty quickly. On the other hand, Americans, as far as I can tell, would much prefer to go unkissed. Brits, as ever, straddle the awkward transatlantic space.