Cross-cultural awarenessItaly

New Creative Greetings in Italy (Bonus: Kissing Cheat Sheet)


Italy is no longer on lockdown and since May 18th we can meet our friends again. As you probably know, the Italian way of greeting is two kissed on the cheek, starting from the right. But we can’t do it anymore because of the physical distancing.

How are you supposed to greet people now? Since Monday I witnessed and experienced three different greeting practices:

Elbow bump

People on Italian television prefer the elbow bump. Politicians worldwide have been doing it for the last two months or so, it really sticks. Besides, you surely respect the distance and it looks solid-ish.

The only question is, that’s the same elbow we are supposed to sneeze or cough into?

Foot bump

A friend I saw the other day proposed the foot bump for greeting. This form of greeting came from China.

It does involve some balance but it also counts as physical exercise, which is much needed after eight weeks at home.

Shoulder or hip bump

I first heard about it as a shoulder bump. You don’t quite respect the distance but it shouldn’t be a problem in this case because you are looking at opposite directions.

Then I saw the hip bump on the TV. I really can’t imagine myself doing it with someone else other than my best friends but it does look like a lot of fun.

handshake alternatives

But why the kiss anyway?

The honest answer is: we don’t know. In his book One Kiss or Two: In Search of the Perfect Greeting, career diplomat Andy Scott assumes the origins of this tradition are probably biblical: “In his Epistle to the Romans, St. Paul instructed followers to ‘salute one another with a holy kiss.’ And so the ‘holy kiss’ became a common greeting among early Christians and a central part of Catholic ceremony.

Scott thinks that over time, the lip-to-lip salutation might have evolved into a kiss on the cheek, which could explain why the kiss greeting is popular in most Catholic countries.

Hopefully, we will be able to hug and kiss each other again soon. Well, those who did it before.


Bonus Kissing Cheat Sheet

Remember this is the standard version, in some countries like Brazil, Italy or France, the number of kisses depends on the region. In others, like Middle East countries, opposite sexes don’t kiss.

In Russia, you usually kiss on the cheek three times people you are really glad to see, like dear friends who come to visit you.

kissing cheat sheet

What’s your favorite creative greeting? Comment below!

If you like this project, subscribe to the Multicultural You newsletter. I hate spam and will send you only one mail per month full of useful intercultural information!

I agree to privacy terms & conditions

Take the free Culture Test!