*chuckle* now, Cicero pro domo sua
as a famous pre-Italian (aka Roman
) said ... let us be more precise.
People in Southern Italy kiss among friends. Men kiss men, women kiss men, women kiss women. In Northern Italy, men do not kiss among themselves, and women kiss men only when they are close friends. Even in Northern Italy, women kiss each other freely, especially among the young generation.
My father's family is from the South (Lecce), and my mother's from the North (Parma), which makes a border bastard of me (as Francesco Guccini would say).
So it has happened more than once that, returning from happy holidays in the hot South, I greeted my male friends with kisses. This always was somewhat perturbing to them, and embarassing to me.
- Notice that Italians kiss twice, right-left. The kiss is either placed on the cheek (it has to be a dry kiss, you slobberers), or left in the air, about one inch from the receiver's skin.
- Mexicans kiss once. Your second kiss would be left hanging in the air, a bad feeling comparable only to being refused a handshake.
- People in Geneva kiss thrice. But after all they are Swiss, so they can take things easy.
In this cross-cultural confusion, one should remember that it is better not to kiss than to kiss as if you were doing a great favor to the kissed, or to his cultural background. This is often a problem with Americans in Europe - you can plainly see that they are thinking about whether to kiss or not, what will happen, what will the people say... I realize it must be very difficult.