Something that will never be the same again: our social contacts from handshakes to kisses

Where is the Brezhnev kiss, the Brezhnev triple that is the kiss on the two faces and a kiss on the lips? The most important rule of our days in terms of our social contacts is to avoid the usual forms of greeting, such as handshakes and kisses. Naturally, we don’t have to be rude; we simply greet our acquaintances not seen for a long time in a different way. We’re going to do a little etiquette detour this week.

From handshake to hand kiss


In addition to the verbal expression, the greeting also includes gestures. There is the handshake, standing up (from the table) or nodding. Hand kisses are disappearing these days, but the tradition of hat raising has almost completely disappeared along with hats.

The handshake was originally only between men as a friendly gesture, as it symbolized unarmedness. In the Middle Ages, greeting with a kiss never became a popular gesture because of raging epidemics. However, bowing was a common form of courtesy not only in Europe, but think of China or Japan. In Europe, the easy bow usually happens towards women, the older, and the higher in rank, especially at the first encounter. An interesting term, expanding with pejorative meaning, is “hajbók”, which is presumably the product of the word combination of the verbs 'bow' and 'compliment'.


The hand kiss became a widespread form of greeting throughout the continent. It has been present in Hungary since the 18th century, and was a remnant of Spanish etiquette presumably. Naturally, it spread in the territory of the monarchy through Habsburg mediation. It’s good to know that hand kisses for ladies are now symbolic; a man’s lips shouldn’t touch a woman’s hand. An important rule even today: if a man kisses a woman’s hand in company, he must do it to the other women as well. Also, there was the children’s hand kiss with which they greeted their parents and the elders. In the past, guests’ hands also had to be kissed when they came to your house “to show kind hospitality”.

Hand kissing, of course, is not yet a sign of good manners, and it is also true that it was not always appropriate. Just think about workplace- or public transport meetings; so all that is left is a welcoming expression, without a real kiss.

"Kisztihand nagysád!"

“Kisztihand” – which is the establishment of the German formula “I kiss your hand” (Küss die Hand) - lived vividly in the public consciousness for a long time. In the socialist period, it was regarded as an outdated form, and even the emancipating manner of speaking considered it impermissible.


It is almost certain that the kiss is the present form of the hand kiss. Of course, the kiss is a common form of greeting not only in Hungary. In France there is a traditional double kiss, or triple, which can be known as “la bise”, but the number of kisses in France is as diverse as the wine regions. It is good to know that even in this case it’s just a symbolic kiss, and you should keep in mind which side the ceremony begins on, so that no one is approached unexpectedly.
In the case of Italians and Spanish, greeting is accompanied by a more intense expression of emotion: patting on the shoulder, hugging and kissing on the face are the most common.

How can we say hello without contact? 'Namaste' is used in India, when hands pressed together, palms touching, fingers pointing upwards, and the head is also slightly bent. In the United States, waving will do.


Translated by Zita Aknai


Etikett; Társasélet; Protokoll: A hazai és a nemzetközi érintkezés szabályai egykor és ma / Réczey Ferenc, Pekáry Dagmar, Gondi Ferenc, Minerva Kiadó, Budapest, 1965.


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