Expat Life · Live · Travel

Welcome in Netherlands! The country where 3 kiss rule applies.

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.

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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.

Love Constance

 

Images via Pixabay

Inspired by Invader Stu: The 3 kiss rule

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36 thoughts on “Welcome in Netherlands! The country where 3 kiss rule applies.

    1. Hey Mack, thanks for stopping by! I’m very glad you enjoyed this article and found it informative. I too Enjoy discovering aspects from other cultures very much but let me share a secret with you… Once you start living abroad, the strongest cultural shock is the reversed one you get when you visit your home country.

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      1. I never know what to do. The Irish I have met in SF tend to be huggers. I tend to hug my good friends when I am back home in Ireland but a lot of them are two kisses folks. After living in Singapore for so long I did get used to shaking hands as first choice with people I didn’t know well, but then when do you stop shaking hands and start kissing or hugging when you get to know them better? It’s a very interesting topic!

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        1. It is, isn’t it? Handshake is a little bit formal for Southern Europeans and it means that you don’t feel close to the one you are greeting. A warm hug and two kisses is what you should expect between friends and over extended family. Recently I was told that in Italy it is really important to start with right cheek because it is a sign of brotherhood whereas starting with left cheek is called “Judas kiss” and is a sign of disrespect!

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      2. Friends often hug, and Boyfriend’s family usually greet me with a hug and a kiss on one cheek. But for a first meeting it’s usually a handshake or nothing at all… I don’t think Ireland was traditionally a very touchy-feely kind of place!

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  1. Haha this is so funny indeed! When I moved to Spain from Hungary I had a few confusing moments as we give two kisses in the opposite order (right-left) whereas the Spaniards go left-right. So it’s not just the number, sides matter too 😀 😀

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    1. Oh Hungary! This country holds a special place in my heart because it was our first destination as newlyweds with my husband. I never had the chance to socially interact with people there but it’s nice to find out that we have the same style in kissing! Right to left is the Greek way too, accompanied with some hugs 😉

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      1. Straight?….. haha lol
        Every country has its own customs… in some countries its normal that men kiss and hug when they meet, or holding hands on the street…..
        I love all custums that show ‘love’….

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      1. It is funny because even if they only kiss once they do it all the time! When they wake up, when they get home, when the leave home, when they go to sleep, when they get to work…too much! I don’t actually think we have a rule in Spain, kiss both sides however you want and in any order! 🙂

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  2. In Spain it is just the two so I always get caught out with a dutch friends. Even some nose nudging cheek bashing when caught off guard!! lol! If in doubt I stick my hand out quickly in true English fashion. Great post.
    Flo 🙂

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