If you have recently moved to Netherlands and have at least one Dutch friend it is inevitable that at some point during your friendship they will try to kiss you. It’s a simple fact. They can’t control themselves. Coming from a “touchy – feely”culture like me, this doesn’t come as a shock however, that third kiss came as a surprise! What third kiss? you are probably wondering right now!..and this is how most expats are introduced in this “three kisses rule” in Netherlands.
3 times kissing rule
In the Netherlands, it is considered quite normal for people to greet each other with three kisses on the cheek. It is also customary to do the same again when saying goodbye. It’s just a friendly way of saying hello and farewell. It’s not limited to the Dutch either.
As part of your inburgering (integration) process you might be expected to join in too. This can seem rather shocking if you come from a country such as England where shaking hands before the third date is sometimes considered to be quite forward, or the Chinese who tend to avoid all physical contact with strangers. However, once you decide to move abroad, it’s very important to learn to embrace local culture or at least make an effort to engage with small cultural habits just like this 3 times kissing rule.
Luckily there are a few unwritten rules to help guide you, and stop things becoming too socially awkward.
Who should I be kissing?
Sometimes it is hard to know just how familiar you have to be with someone before you should start kissing them on the cheeks every time you see them. Should I kiss a person I just met? How about my neighbors? Should I kiss them hello?
Probably not. It would seem that it’s best to only use the three kiss greeting with close friends and family but in any case I would recommend to let the Dutch people lead you through it. They’ll know what to do!
Just to be a little bit more prepared, you should know that ladies are expected to kiss and get kissed by everyone. Men, women, children… household pets, everyone. However, men are only expected to cheek kiss women. This seems to be an unwritten rule that men themselves may have” written”.
Kissing like an expat
Most confusing situation is what happens when neither of you are Dutch. Do you still follow the Dutch three kiss rule or do the greeting rules of your own country apply? What if you are both from different countries with different rules? What then? Which rule overrides which? One kiss? Two kisses? Three? Four?! FIVE??!!
And what about the extremely awkward moments when one of you goes in for a kiss but the other goes in for a hug or a handshake and you end up randomly kissing the air in front of their face?
And even the Dutch don’t know what to do sometimes. It can be very confusing. What are you supposed to do as a Dutch person when faced with a group of expats? Kiss? Hug? Shake hands? Nod? Give them a friendly punch on the arm? Rub noses? The whole thing can be very distressing or hilarious, depending on your point of view. My recommendation again is to embrace the local culture. It is the best and safest way to set a common ground between you and your new international friends.
Coming from a Mediterranean culture this 3 kisses rule, the physical contact and the warm greetings were a pleasant surprise and somehow made me feel like home. In the few expat meetings I attended until now it was interesting, and some times hilarious, to observe people from all over the world interacting with eachother. Looking at these funny but also socially awkward scenes made me realize that our will to communicate and co-exist sometimes is stronger than any cultural habit.
Images via Pixabay
Inspired by Invader Stu: The 3 kiss rule