I suppose gay friends greet each other this way, however the cheek kiss is mainly a sign of a close friendship between a man and a woman (at least here men are not too comfortable with in in general) and how you greet your family whole heartedly. Women with friendships do not seem to have a problem with it but mostly prefer the kiss past the cheek and not on the cheek. I would not really say it is the European way of life, though it is more common in certain countries than others, maybe you are attending too many Russian conferences or Italian secret society fun events ? I have been hugged and cheek kissed a lot in Florida by total strangers, so I fail to see the European part in it
A very common greeting between men is a firm handshake, sometimes accompanied by a pat on the back, or close friends also hug after they haven’t see each other for a long time.
But because I feel for you and your predicament I will briefly go into the basics so you do not run into anymore awkward moments. It is really easy I whipped up this guide for you, there is no science to it and you will be a pro in seconds( I swear )
(hear say: these principles also work with Asians, Australians and Africans)
The basic techniques:Introduction: Common knowledge:
Many, many cheek kiss attacks start out as an innocent handshake but beware of shady European characters. Sometimes they are trying to knock you off your feet drawing you in close, also if you offer a handshake be cautious there are just no guarantees It will stay that way and your safe zone will be ripped to shreds.. However there are counter measurements that provide you with a safety net to at least get through the whole procedure painlessly and with grace and dignity. Furthermore it is customary to start the whole ritual with your head to the right of your counterpart's head, however on a side note there can be problems with persons who suffer from minor to major orientation issues. The result is often falsely referred to as „headbanging“ which however is an approved way of sport at rock concerts.I.) The neutral stance
You must assume a neutral position to your European opponent. Your feet are shoulder wide positioned on the floor to ensure you are in control, also stand flexible in your knees. NO one will just slap your whole body on his chest. Show no weakness in your body language but do not go over the top signaling anger or aggression.II.) Know your enemy
If your counterpart is preparing fort he cheek kiss you will know it and you will have only a brief time to react. ( read below).It is far more tricky to guess if you are expected to NOT go for the cheek first or if you are supposed to - as a sign of respect. I recommend reading into literature of the local European tribes. People have been tossed over the Alps for lesser offenses and our tiny little villages differ so much from each other.III.) „The approach“
The approach is a very tricky phase of the cheek kiss, however it is easy when executed properly, so make sure you do not fail at this point or else you will be called horrible names. Let us assume in this case you are the target of a random cheek kiss attack.. Do not sweat for obvious hygienic reasons, stay calm, you can get through this. In some parts of the world you might have been offered a raw gigantic beetle instead. With this happy thought in your head you swiftly get your head back in the game and measure the height of the European person. Try to accommodate your height to your counterpart and zone in at medium velocity. This means not too slow, after all you don’t want the other persons either jumping up your throat or kissing you on your forehead like a babies goodnight kiss or the whole thing reversed. ( really awkward ). Remember you are not the kisser in this scenario, you are simply a meaningless piece of meat offering his cheek this is not your show – yet ! Keep your head straight and set your gaze straight ahead past the other persons shoulder and slowly come to a halt. Do not ever look at the other person during the execution of this phase, either you will look like a madman keeping your head straight rolling your eyes left, or you will turn your head and no one can guarantee where that kiss might end up. Once you have come to a halt stay calm and halt still. You have just perfectly executed your part and can rest assured nothing can go wrong. There it is..that awkward kiss or not ? If you do not feel a kiss on your cheek you only have but ¼ of a second to fake a kiss in the air. If you miss this crucial time window you have just royally screwed up not recognizing the signs of an „air popper“ ( see cheek kiss variations number a.) ) .Either way slowly assume the neutral stance and smile like you mean it.IV.)The kiss, executed as the „kissback“ or as well „the opener“
In most scenarios, albeit you have just been ooverwhelmed by a kiss attack you are actually supposed to kiss back.( If you missed the „air popper“ then just forget about everything there is no comeback from it. You are doomed. Try to talk about the weather or go boil an egg )
In the other case as tough as it is , there is just now way out of „the kissback“. Execute basic technique (1) then move on to (3) at 80%. Again do not check on the other person. Once you have obtained 80% the critical phase begins. Seamlessly move forward but slightly turn your head
a.) left if you are the daredevil you are and are going first ( you WERE aiming for above the right shoulder..right ? )
b.) right if you are returning the kiss ( ..... –II- left shoulder )
Finish the movement at a steady pace visualize your target – yes it is the cheek- pull all your strength together and close your lips and plant a brief gentle kiss on your targets cheek.Common mistakes:
1.) „uhh your beard stings“ Why did you have to kiss a man on the cheek anyways ? Suck it up...
2.)„The slopper“: Closing your lips is not a suggestion. People tend to react weird when they feel you are a python trying to get their cheek ready for digestion.
3.) „The stone“ By closing your lips it was furthermore not suggested to bring them to the density of titanium thereby hurting your fellow European.V.) A quick review of the most common cheek kiss rituals
a.) The „air popper“
Origin : It is rumored to actually having been adapted in the United States but this shallow display of attraction has its firm grip on nations all over the globe.
Execution: Never turn your head – blow a kiss in the air past the targets cheek. Cheap , quick and painless.
b.) The „alternating dance of the cheek“ kiss
Origin : Unknown, somewhat popular
Execution: Techniques 1-4, can be pushed past this limit by multiple repetition, somewhat disgusting if the partner is drowning in beer/not showered etc.
c.) The "insidious great parallel cheek kiss":
Origin : Rumored to be invented by circus folk, passed on by gypsies to the native European population.
Execution: This is the grande dame of all cheek kisses the king the queen, pure madness of skill and physical fitness is required. To make a halfway decent attempt at this you need to be on top of your game, do not even attempt a feeble display of this if you are not man enough. Execute 1, skip 2 it is obvious both people are crazy in the coconut to even attempt this at the same time. Breathe deep, up your speed and keep your head to the right, apply same principle as in IV.) but in addition frantically twist your corner of your mouth to the left, maintaining proper form with your lips is almost impossible for the untrained, do no let „the slopper“ happen. Practice.