Monday, August 20, 2012

To Kiss or not to Kiss! Brazil edition!

We Brazilians love to kiss and we start early!! :)

After reading and making a comment on THIS POST on Rachel's blog, I decided to write this post (as per my dear friend Rachel's suggestion ;) )
This is one of the most talked about culture characteristic for new comers and expats moving to Brazil.
It is ever talked about among Brazilians, trust me.
First and foremost, let me be clear, crystal clear when I say this, we are talking about an "air kiss", it's a gesture, and symbolic form of greeting, you are not supposed to give or receive a juicy wet kiss on anybody's cheeks, PLEASE!!

Wrong way to kiss when greeting in Brazil!! Yes, you will get bitch slapped if you try this!! ;)

I think it's important to clarify that, when I see and hear about people behaving in such a senseless defensive way, as if they are avoiding being tongue French kissed by everyone they see, it's not that people, relax... it's a simple warmer than you are used to form of greeting.
So I decided to talk to Gil about it to help me remember what are the "rules" on the greeting kiss in Brazil. I also called my mother, an aunt and my grandmother in an effort to be as informative and helpful as possible.
Please read my answer to Rachel's post below, it's pretty complete and it should help you feel more confident with the so talked about "Brazilian greeting kiss"!!  :)


The cardinal rule of Brazilian good manners is to never ever turn your face away or block the other person by extending your arm, this would be the quickest way to offend Brazilians and show them you could care less for local customs or any possibility at friendship or a friendly existence. Such a rude sign would contribute to the wrong “stereotype” some people have that Americans overseas are rude and arrogant.
Having said that, there are some basic rules when greeting folks in Brazil, here we go:

-As a general rule, 1 Kiss in Sao Paulo, 2 Kisses in Rio, but don’t stress, people brake this rule all the time, just go with the flow on this one, it is even cool to make a little joke while going for the kiss, and ask, 1 or 2 kisses? it helps to brake the ice and puts the other person at ease, I always did that and sorted out the other person’s intentions and avoided awkward moments :)
-If a lady is sitting down, and someone arrives to greet, she can choose to remain siting while greeting or she can decide to stand up, women get to choose as they please.
-Gentlemen never get to choose, in Brazil, it is always polite and expected that a gentleman stands up to greet whoever is arriving at the scene.
-There is a very popular joke of the Brazilian “kissing game” that we say ( 3 pra casar ), usually people throw that in to brake the ice, make a joke, put people at ease, and it means, “3 kisses to marry”, as in wishing the person good luck to get married soon…and married people do it too and laugh about it.

Guys don't kiss while greeting in Brazil!! :)

-If you come into a room filled with strangers and a few friends, you kiss your friends and family, not every one in the party. Now if you are going to a family reunion, good luck, you will be kissing every one you see… and you don’t kiss anyone in a room filled with strangers…:)
-If you are being formally introduced to someone, 2 kisses is the custom, but if it’s a professional setting, a hand shake is enough and kisses not expected.

Relax people, it's an air kiss, like air guitar!! R E L A X!! :)

-You should never approach to greet and kiss, someone that is eating, this is a really big no-no in Brazil, we are very particular about meal times, and if you can’t avoid it, keep it short and don’t ever go for the kiss, EVER during a meal, a short wave and a smile are more than enough, even with family and close friends. :)

Absolutely NO KISSING while someone is eating! Brazilians are very peculiar about meal time!

-As a general rule it’s not really a class thing, but it is a thing of your inner circle. You kiss people that belong to your inner circle, mainly family and close friends. If someone at work is close enough, you kiss them, but as a general rule, people don’t kiss each other at work environments, and again, keep in mind, some people will always brake this rule for different reasons, and if they do, it’s ok, don’t panic, and NEVER extend your arm or turn your face away, again, this is the ultimate insult in Brazilian culture, just go with the flow, and you will survive another awkward moment ;)
Answering your specific questions, first your observations are all correct, the teacher will kiss a parent if they have become close enough and consider each other friends.
If you saw someone in the morning, you kissed and greeted them in the morning, no need to repeat it when you see them again, once a day is fine.
The surprise hug moments, I always ask 1 or 2 kisses and I avoid that issue for myself, like I said, it’s both a way to brake the ice and know what the person intends to do. :)
I hope I was able to clarify the kissing etiquette rules in Brazil… :)

E um beijo ( Paulista ) no seu rosto… :)


I hope you guys will find this useful, and just like any culture, there are exceptions to the rule, and parts of Brazil that might have different customs, this is more in the Rio-Sao Paulo-Minas and South of Brazil areas. I am not too familiar with the North and Northeast parts of Brazil but I would be surprised if the culture rules change too much.

Forte abraco a todos



Alex said...

YES! this is perrrfect.


Jessica said...

Ha! Thanks, Ray. I think I just realized a couple months ago that I'm not actually supposed to give a physical kiss on the cheek! Hopefully I didn't offend too many people, and hopefully they just chalked it up to me being new to Brazil. It's officially been a year now though, so I'd better shape up with the customs! ;o)

American Heart Brazilian Soul said...


De nada! I am glad you found this useful!
Question: Do your Brazilian friends in the US use the kissing routine? :)


American Heart Brazilian Soul said...

Dear Jessica,

I am sure your Brazilian friends in Santos will be happy and feel honored to get a real kiss from you, that is just a sign of a closer friendship. You shouldn't be surprised if they show up for dinner unanounced ;)
And funny you mention, because my great aunts from Santos always gave us the wetest real kisses on the might be a Santos thing... LOL... :)


Alex said...

Ray, to answer your question: YES! We kiss all the time! On the cheek, on the mouth, with our tongues...just kidding. But yes, we do kiss. Its usually the two cheeks, mainly because I know a lot of cariocas and people from the Northeast!

American Heart Brazilian Soul said...


Leave those poor Brazilian girls and boys alone, I told you, AIR KISS, AIR KISS, no wet tongue kissing... :)


Anonymous said...

Hello! I've been dating a Brazilian guy for almost 3 years now (LDR). I would get a little jealous when he says he kisses girls when he greets them. Now I shouldn't be worried :)

Very informative post. Thank you!