Kissing in Chile – A visual guide to not alienating your new Chilean friends

Saying hello in Chile can sometimes descend into an utter farce. Although a seemingly simple cultural concept, my month and a bit in Chile has made me realise how difficult it can be. Like many other places in the world (sometimes it feels like New Zealand is the only country in the world that maintains a formal distance when greeting each other), it is typical to cheek kiss when saying hello or goodbye.

I’m a lot better equipped to deal with this having been an exchange student surrounded by Europeans with all their various one kiss, two kiss, air kiss, actual kiss combinations that resulted in some awkward misaiming lips in the beginning stages of blossoming friendships, having spent the first 21 years of my life assuming a simple wave of the hand and smile would suffice in greeting someone, friend or stranger.

What’s new this time around for kissing related situations is that Chileans air kiss people they’ve never met. I think I unintentionally came off as rude in my first few days here because I would hang back in group situations, assuming that first time meetings didn’t require a pucker up.

False. All members of the group must greet every other member with an cheek air kiss. This is fine in intimate and small group situations, but when one is in a large social setting with more than ten people it really does begin to border on the ridiculous – you begin to feel like a kissing machine; raise down, kiss, raise up, kiss, repeat. It also is highly amusing watching a single person leaving a big group situation and watching them kisskisskissing their way around the room, making such special efforts to kiss people they haven’t exchanged a word with all night.

And now, for all those who may head to Chile in the future and want to ensure they don´t stuff up saying hello in Chile like I surely did my first few days, I present a visual guide on ¨How to Chilean Cheek Kiss¨


Barack and Hilary display proper Chilean cheek kissing technique


Dubya tries his best at Chilean cheek kissing, but comes up short


…Molly from Texas and her utterly incorrect attempt at Chilean air kissing