Body Language 61 Air Kissing

January 3, 2020

A very common gesture when people greet each other is a kind of mock kiss called “air kissing.” The movement occurs more in social than in business settings, although in some cultures the gesture is used in business settings routinely.

Air kissing should not be confused with “blowing a kiss,” which always starts with kissing one’s hand then blowing the kiss to the other person.

With air kissing, there is always some form of loose embrace going on. The two people move their faces to the right of the other person’s face as they move toward each other to embrace.

It appears as if they were going to actually kiss the cheek of the other person. The gesture can be awkward, and with the heightened attention to sexual harassment, it is best to refrain from using an air kiss unless it is initiated by the other person. This is particularly important in a business setting.

The air kiss is often associated with movie stars, rock stars, or other celebrities. In entertainment settings, the air kiss is depicted as a way to demonstrate super-star power when greeting someone.

Rather than actually contact the cheek with the lips, a kissing motion is made with the mouth while the two cheeks are touching. It is a way to show affection without spreading a lot of germs, so it has become quite popular. The French phrase for air kissing is les bises. Sometimes the air kiss is accompanied by a verbal sound imitating a kiss, e.g. “Mwah.”

The only confusing part of the air kiss is a kind of awkward situation where as the two parties come together, one person assumes this is a situation for an actual kiss on the cheek or even the lips while the other person wants to perform the air kiss move. Sometimes that movement can result in kissing an unintended area of the face.

Kissing is a common gesture that is highly culture specific. You need to use care to understand the culture of the other person to do the right thing. Here are a few examples of how the gesture differs in specific cultures. This information, plus a lot more detail, is available as a reference in a book titled “Kiss. Bow, or Shake Hands” by Morrison, and Conaway.

Saudi Arabia

A traditional Saudi greeting consists of shaking the right hand while placing the left hand on the right shoulder of the other person and exchanging kisses on each cheek of the other person. In this culture they use an actual kiss rather than an air kiss.


The correct greeting gestures in India vary greatly as there are several subcultures involved between the different religious sects: Hindu, Muslim, Sikhs, Christian as well as several others. Indians of all ethnic groups disapprove of public affection between people of the opposite sex. Do not touch (except in handshaking), hug, or kiss in any form when greeting someone of the opposite sex.


Men may kiss men and women kiss women as a greeting in Egypt, but avoid the gesture with a person of the opposite sex. It is not uncommon for a businessman to kiss another businessman who he knows well on the lips in Egypt.

Indonesia and Malaysia

In Indonesia, and Malaysia, it is common to air-kiss an elder’s hand as a traditional form of respectful greeting. Instead of pursing one’s lips, the younger person exhaling through his nose softly on the hand before drawing the hand to the younger person’s forehead.

Inuit Nose rubbing

The kunik or so-called “Eskimo Kiss” consists of rubbing both noses together as a sign of affection, usually practiced by family members or loved ones. It is a non-erotic but intimate greeting used by people who, when they meet outside, often have little except their nose and eyes exposed.

Around the world, you will see the practice of air kissing or some other variant as described here. The precaution is to use this gesture sparingly, especially if you are not among good friends or family. It works better in a social setting than in a business application, although you will find it used in both in several cultures.

As with all body language gestures, if you are unsure of the suitability of the action with a particular person or in a specific situation, it is best to refrain from initiating it.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”

Surfing the Chaos

March 1, 2014

Surfer On Blue Ocean WaveIn any organization there is going to be a certain amount of chaos. It is an unpredictable world, and the global pressures have made mere survival a constant struggle.

One can pine for the good old days when we could go to work at 8 am and check out at 5 pm, but those days are gone forever.

We can wish that people would always do right, or customers never get angry, or the weather habitually cooperate, but none of those desires is realistic.

To keep from going insane or just withdrawing, we need to invent new defenses from the reality of our time.

Chaos is going to happen.

You are going to have at least three crises in the next six months and so am I. The good news here is that with practice and cunning, we can learn to ride the waves of chaos like a surfer does the ocean waves.

Rather than fight back against the incredible power of the sea, the surfer uses the momentum to climb up and make a game of it. That is what we need to learn how to do in business.

Success belongs to those who can practice some simple precepts.

1. Train Well – An unskilled surfer is a danger to himself as well as others. You need the proper gear and you need to know how and when to use it to be successful. Trying to navigate a complex outsourcing decision without solid international experience is as ridiculous as going out to surf using snow skis.

2. Be nimble – Have the systems set up so that you can move with the vicissitudes of the current conditions. Anticipate as best you can what may happen, but be ready to veer off path at a moment’s notice. Consider it a core competence to not be thrown off the surf board, rather cut and weave with the wave not only to survive the pounding surf but actually enjoy the ride.

3. Be flexible – See your own paradigms and be willing to modify them or even let go completely to catch the next wave. The fluidity of changing conditions can be like a choppy sea that you are forced to fight against, or you can begin to recognize there are patterns and start paddling long before the wave is breaking upon you. Have bright creative people on the team who know how to keep from being submerged and actually “shoot the curl” or “hang 10.” Having these wonderful people is not enough; you must be prepared to listen to them and support their ideas.

4. Be undaunted – Unexpected things are going to surface like jellyfish in the water. You need to take all possible precautions and be vigilant, but there is a time to be courageous and strong as well. When you fall, and you will many times, learn from any mistakes you made, but by all means get back out there for another try. If you give up because of a specific failure, your muscles will stiffen and you will become calcified by the fear.

5. Be Alert – know the danger signals well and watch for them like you would a shark in the water. Courage is one thing, but being foolhardy with too much risk is likely to lose you a leg or more.

6. Be Smart – Great surfers know that each wave is different. They have the innate ability to know which wave to catch and which one to let pass. In business, you need to make decisions on engagement every day. Knowing which opportunities not to pursue is as important as knowing which ones to chase. To do well in this dimension, you need to have a great strategic plan. The strategy tells you both what to do and what not to do.

7. Be adaptable – every surfer knows there are new techniques being invented every day that can change the whole game for everyone. When there is the opportunity to learn a completely different way to do the job, dive in with full energy to learn it.

If you can practice these seven skills, then the waves of chaos and change will be stimulating aids to your success rather than the source of burnout or failure.