Kissing Culture


Different countries, different lips! From romantic to sensual, secretive or even forbidden – the way we exchange kisses differs tremendously around the globe.

Not everyone shares romantic kisses

Let’s imagine you’re holding hands with your partner as you walk down the street. He says something to really make you giggle and you feel the spontaneous urge to give him a kiss. Ignoring the strangers surrounding you, you tenderly lock lips. What may come naturally to couples in the Western world can be interpreted very differently in other countries.

As researchers at the University of Indiana discovered, kissing culture varies significantly depending on the country and its people. Only around half of cultures kiss each other intimately.

Central America, South America and Africa are particular regions where there is not much of a kissing culture. Only 4 of the 17 cultures researched in South America, 4 of 27 in Africa and 0 of 10 cultures in Central America lock lips romantically. Likewise, passionate kissing is unheard of among the rainforest population in the Amazon basin. In North America and Oceania most people are familiar with intimate kissing, whereas romantic kissing is most common in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The exact reasons behind these global differences have yet to be studied in detail.

How do different cultures kiss?

The butterflies you feel in your stomach when you and your partner share a romantic kiss is impossible for people of a non-kissing culture to imagine. In some places intimate lip contact is considered disgusting or a form of foreplay, making it an absolute taboo in public. Read on to discover some interesting facts and curiosities to do with the kissing culture in different countries.

Germans and Austrians are true romantics

The Austrians and their German neighbours love nothing more than kissing at sunset, in front of the open fire or by candlelight. Blazing passion and great love are considered the most important elements of kissing in these cultures. With a strong focus on romance and passion, kisses over there tend to last quite a while too: a whole 12 seconds to be precise. The Germans and Austrians also like to greet each other with a kiss on the cheek. However, no specific etiquette exists on exactly how often and where to kiss.

Hollywood kisses: made in the USA

Citizens of the US would be absolutely horrified by the Austrian and German kiss on the cheek. Feeling the lips of friends, acquaintances and even strangers on their cheek is unthinkable to them. Hollywood film style kissing, however, is on display everywhere. You can make out intimately there, even on a first date.

Bisous in France

It is no accident that deep and passionate smooching is known as ‘French kissing’, as the country absolutely oozes romance. The capital city, Paris, is still known as the City of Love, and a French accent is enough to make anyone go weak at the knees. Depending on the region, the French greet each other with two to four pecks on the cheek. The only place kissing is forbidden in France is on level crossings. Supposedly, the French authorities are afraid that kissing for too long could endanger the lovers and other passengers. So on your next trip try to stick to kissing in front of the Eiffel Tower – let’s face it, it’s a much more romantic spot anyway! 

Indians only kiss in private

The erotic text known as the Kama Sutra contains more than 30 clever kissing styles, including the ‘throbbing kiss’ and ‘fight of the tongues’. However, the focus here is not on romance. In Hinduism kissing represents the cosmic unification of the opposing poles of man and woman. But kissing in public remains an absolute taboo. Even in Bollywood films kissing is unusual and frowned upon. When a couple is drawing in close for a kiss on camera, they are hidden by a screen moments before their lips touch. What’s more, young Indians are only permitted to kiss after their wedding, which is why hotels often request a marriage certificate.

The Thai people like to keep it old-fashioned

Thailand might not come across as prudish with its full moon beach parties, but in reality, Thai people are very conservative. A kiss on the cheek and bodily contact to greet others are taboo. Instead, the conventional way to greet others is to bow with a ‘wai’. Kissing others in public under the gaze of strangers is frowned upon. The only people to do this are tourists or Thai people wanting to imitate western culture.

Kissing as foreplay in Japan

Japan also has a kissing culture that differs greatly from ours. For the Japanese, kissing is part of sexual foreplay and therefore is considered to be highly inappropriate in public.

Things are heating up in Mexico

Mexicans love to kiss. On Valentine’s Day in 2009 they smooched their way into the Guinness Book of Records with a kissing marathon. This was also a form of protest against the conservatism in their country. In Guanajuato in central Mexico there is even an Alley of the Kiss, which is a hotspot for tourists. Incidentally, the kissing culture in Mexico is very passionate, with deep and intimate kissing being very popular among Mexican women. They don’t find it so attractive when men are more reserved with their kissing approach.

Nose-kissing in New Zealand

The Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, greet one another by pressing their noses and foreheads together. This is known as a ‘Hongi’, and although not necessarily a kiss, it is very intimate. The idea behind a ‘Hongi’ is to exchange breath to allow the souls to meet. But if you want to make a good impression, don’t forget your toothbrush and mouthwash

Where kissing is forbidden in public

In highly conservative countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, kissing in public is absolutely unthinkable. Only men commonly hug to greet one another, whereas men and women don’t even tend to shake hands with each other. In Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Indonesia, kissing and holding hands are also banned on public roads.

Africa is fairly new to the kissing craze

Kissing and western kissing culture as we know it was unheard-of in Africa for thousands of years. In South Africa, back in 2007, kissing by children under 16 years old was forbidden both in public and private. But the youth of South Africa refused to accept this ruling and quickly protested with mass kissing events.

Using the lips as a tool

In the Arctic, the lips aren’t used for kissing, they are a tool used for softly chewing food. Instead, the Inuit have the famous ‘Eskimo kiss’. This involves placing the noses over one another at right angles and rubbing them against each other whilst sniffing hard. This technique is also practised by the Maori of New Zealand mentioned above and other South Pacific peoples. Discover more about kissing during the colder months!

Nibbling the eyelashes in Papua New Guinea

The people of the Trobriand Islands in Papua New Guinea have an extraordinary approach to showing their affection: nibbling on their partner’s eyelashes. Short eyelashes are actually considered a status symbol in the South Pacific. The kissing culture over there is also pretty remarkable – with couples sucking and biting on the lips and tongue of their partner until they bleed.

As you can see, the different kissing cultures across the world vary dramatically and it’s best to tread cautiously with your affections in some places! But our guide will help prevent any smooching slip-ups on your next trip.