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XXX- no, I’m not trying to be obscene, nor am I talking about a tatted-up extreme sports athlete recruited by the government (AKA Vin Diesel). I thought I’d shed a little light on some Swiss culture.

You’ve seen in movies I’m sure (or possibly first-hand) how kissy the Europeans can be, and frankly, for me, it’s slightly uncomfortable. But I’ve learned a lot during my stay here in this country of cheese, chocolate, and cows– one thing being how to greet people. It’s probably a good idea to learn this before hand if you want to avoid the awkward hand-shake/kiss/hug that I’ve had to endure more than once. I still remember my first day, arriving at the train station, greeted by our exchange “buddy,” him coming towards me, and me not really knowing what to do. Do I shake hands? Go in for a hug? Uh-oh…what’s this?? Kisses? I don’t even know this kid!

After a while though, I got more used to it– though secretly I still dread every time I have to greet a Swiss person. Sometimes, if they know you’re American, they will kindly go for the hand-shake to make you feel more at ease. Or, even more awkwardly, will just smile and nod as you feel the tension growing in the space between (you know they’re thinking, to kiss? or not to kiss?).

Pucker Up!

So, how to do it correctly? Well, generally, it’s 3 quick kisses, starting from the left cheek, then right, then left again. This goes for guys and girls, girls and girls, but I don’t think guys and guys (they shake hands mostly, but I could be wrong)…and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter what age you are (though I’ve never greeted an elderly Swiss person, or a little kid, so I can’t be sure about that either). No embrace is really needed (though sometimes I feel like a chicken pecking at something with my arms dangling at my sides). Most of the time I’ll place one hand on the other person’s arm…though this feels kind of weird too, especially if they don’t do the same. In my experience, it’s best to just get it out of the way as quickly as possible so life can go on.

Another interesting fact I learned– in France, it’s much the same, but with just 2 kisses. And here in Switzerland, if two girls are really close friends, it’s just one (slightly more heart-felt) kiss with a hug.

So, I hope by now you’ve realized that XXX = 3 kisses. Not that I have anything against Vin Diesel…in fact, if he was in Switzerland right now, I wouldn’t be opposed to greeting him in the typical Swiss way ;)


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