Greeting a person in the Arab world might as well be the trickiest thing in our culture. Is it enough to just shake hands? How many cheek kisses is this person expecting anyway? Is it one per cheek or three per cheek? Is he going to embarrass you and put his hand on his chest? Since they’re too far, isn’t a wave just enough? Is it necessary to stand up? What about walking her to the door?
Really. Arab greetings etiquette is just a pain in the ass. There’s afterall always that really high probability of a lip-lock, if your calculations are just a few seconds or centimeters off.
So if you’re as socially inept as I can be, or if you’re planning on visiting Amman, or if you’re a foreigner living in Amman, this little guide might help:
1. The double-kiss on the cheek is mandatory 96% of the time. Yes, some people consider you rude if for not swapping grease and/or slime.
2. When you arrive, you kiss everybody hello, starting with the person nearest to you and going in a circle. When you leave, you kiss everybody goodbye.
3. If you happen to be seated when someone walks in, you stand and wait for the greeting around 30 seconds before the person reaches you.
4. Women kiss women. Women kiss men. Men kiss men. Sorry guys, but you cannot avoid the man kiss.
5. But don’t kiss the other gender unless you are really good friends, really close family, or if you’re totally sure the other person won’t mind.
6. Do not, and I repeat, do not, touch anyone’s cheek with your lips. It’s really just for show, your lips should actually just kiss the air and make the popping sound.
7. Unless you want to get caught in a very uncomfortable lip-lock, kiss the right cheek first.
8. Often, the kissing greeting is compulsory for even people you just met. If you feel reserved about kissing them during the first handshake, you probably should when you’re about to depart.
9. If you want to show that the greeting is particularly heart-felt, lay your palm on the person shoulder as you greet.