You may well have noticed that Dutch people are a rather kissy bunch. Plop yourself down on any terrace in town and take in the sight of Dutch people all around you greeting & kissing & kissing & kissing then leaving & kissing & kissing & kissing! It is indeed an odd practice for a normally rather un-affectionate bunch.

What, you ask, is all this kissing about? Who exactly kisses who, and more importantly, when is the right moment for all this kissing? As always, we at SDPL are here to make the mysteries of the lowlands a little less mysterious. Kissing is indeed a rather important cultural norm in the Netherlands. However, social kissing does come with its own precise set of rules and regulations, which we will humbly describe.



1. It is common practice to greet people with kisses.
2. Kisses, however, are not indiscriminately dolled out to anyone; they are strictly reserved for friends and relatives only.
3. The norm these days is three kisses on the cheek.
4. These kisses are, however, are not actual kisses on the cheek; they are more like air-kisses and your moist lips dare not actually touch the other person.
5. The three air-kisses are used to greet someone and used again to say goodbye.
6. Women are all about the kissing. Women kiss women. And women kiss men.
7. Men generally only kiss women (apart from their relatives).

8. Two men greet instead with a very manly and firm handshake.
9. Kissing follows the pattern right cheek – left cheek – right cheek; don’t dare go rogue or you are sure to cause a face-on collision.
10. Even with all this daily kissing going on, it is still not the norm to french-kiss in public. The Dutch would rather you left that type of kissing at home.

Confused-much?! Who would of thought that a simple little greeting could have such a complicated set of rules? Of course, there are always awkward moments and situations that even our handy 10-step rules can’t solve. What happens when a colleague becomes more like a friend, do you then greet each-other at work with kisses? Or what if you go a little to enthusiastically into a kiss and painfully smack cheek bones, do you then give an apology kiss? Lastly, when is the right moment to wipe someone’s sweat/spit off your face after a rather moist encounter? 😉

134 Responses

  1. Roel

    To be quite honest, your lips normally touch the skin. Could you perhaps write a little bit about the history of the 3 kisses seeing it’s so unregular?

    • Cootje

      In fact, it’s not that unregular. In France for example, they give two kisses on the cheek, but always! Every day, even when you saw them the night before, in the morning they will greet you with two kisses. And not just friends, but everyone, even two guys. The Belgium people give only one kiss on the cheek, but same principle, and the Swiss give three kisses as well.

      • pierre

        it’s not always two kisses in France, actually there are entire websites dedicated to it! (ex:
        And it’s more common for guys to kiss in the south than in the north.

      • Just another Dutch living abroad

        Actually, i live in Montpelier with my French girlfriend who is from Grenoble.. in Montpelier the ‘thing’ is 3 kisses, in Grenoble 2.. meaning also people from Grenoble (family coming over), and then it gets confusing…
        with that, you are right Cootje,, guys CAN give kisses too, but those only when they are good friends..
        The thing what surprised me the most is that in France they actually kiss when they 1st meet, even if it would be a meeting of only 5 minutes (which for me as a Dutch was kind of awkward to do (and see my girlfriend do))

      • Lukas

        Not completely true. The Belgians give either 1 kiss or 3 kisses. It depends on the occasion. If it’s a very festive day (like Christmas or family parties) or if you have not seen eachother for a long time, or if you’re just being very jovial, it’s 3 (right-left-right or left-right-left). Other times it’s 1.
        If you’re used to this “1 or 3 kisses”, it can be very confusing with for example the French. They indeed always give 2 kisses, which causes 2 akward moments with a Belgian. First the Belgian pulls back after the 1st kiss, but then realizes that it was not just 1 kiss. But then the Belgian thinks it are 3 kisses, so after the 2nd, he goes for a 3rd.

      • K-tje

        I’ve lived in the middle of France (Indre), and there they give you .. yes … 4 kisses!!!!

      • prof

        3 kisses started in the south of the Netherlands and was gradually introduced in the rest of the country. There is no rule for starting right or left. It is a matter of timing, experience, feeling, fingerspitzenfefuehl and first of all being a southener.

      • Janneke

        Left first! Always left first. Don’t make me kiss you on the lips accidentally you guys

    • Tiny Schlegel

      I left in 1960 and there was only 1 kiss when I go back to Holland I,m very confused I still like to give them one kiss

    • Anna

      Nobody knows… it all started during the 70’s. And you know what… nobody likes it! Crazy huh? 😉

      • Darryl PAULSEN

        WOW .. my wife’s Dutch I’m Aussie .. clearly people it’s right cheek to right cheek when facing each other (L to L then R to R) — How can that be confusing!# 😛

    • Tjerk

      Hmm, we always do left cheek – right cheek – left cheek. Maybe that’s just a family quirk though.

      • Nynke

        Depends on what you see as left an as right. I always start with kissing the other’s right cheek, but from my perspective, I’m starting at the left. That isn’t really clear and needs to be clearified.

  2. lh

    same as in South America, except that we only give one kiss! 🙂
    Maybe you could share with us the history behind this practice.

    • vania

      We my families made 3 kisses also this post.
      I live in Brazil.

      • nn

        in Brazil it depends on where you live. in Sao Paulo it is 1 kiss & hug, in some cities it is 2, in others 4 kisses, but always with a hug

  3. Kim

    Great post. Also the kisses are noisy air kisses – where you make smacking noises!!

  4. lulu

    Three kisses is at least two too many. It just seems ostentatious (which isn’t a word I would otherwise use to describe the Dutch). And what’s with Dutch people forcing you to undergo three kisses IN THE U.S.? what ever happened to “when in Rome…”?

    • Eefje

      Maybe because they didn’t know it wasn’t customary in the us? It’s so much a custom here that it’s easy to forget it may not be so in other countries, as some things are the same all over the world. Unless someone tells you, you don’t know about some things.

      That said, there once where belgian exchange students at our school, from wallonia, and they greeted eachother at school with three kisses everyday! I don’t do this with my close friends (I hug them), only with family and on things like new year and ‘recepties’. It’s not really an everyday-greeting. (although you (not lulu, the author) seem to describe it like this, I’ve never seen it like this.

    • rooks

      Cheek kissing is so universal across Europe (except for the highly unaffectionate Scandinavia and maybe the UK to a lesser extent) that it probably didn’t occur to them that it doesn’t make cheek kissing one of the standard Western-world customs. I see where they come from, as it was quite confusing for myself that Americans being such a friendly bunch are so formal when it comes to greeting each other.

      • Susanne

        I lived in Copenhagen for 5 years and people hug instead of kiss, even guys hug each other. So I don’t think scandinavians are unaffectionate, at least not the danes…

      • Aixen

        I live in Finland, and if I ever see 2 Finnish guys kiss each other on the cheek, then perhaps it might be time for me to migrate to Mars

    • Kim Koetsier

      I am from the US with Dutch lineage from both parents. Neither side of my families ever kiss for greetings and rarely hug. My dad does hug good bye with real (not air) kiss on the cheek for the females, daughter, granddaughter. The male in laws a handshake and my brother a hug, no kiss. Hugs are reserved for weddings and funerals for the rest of the family.

  5. Jeroen

    Don’t forget the confusion between tthe people who kiss twice and those who kiss thrice. Always an awkward moment if u go in for the third one when the other pulled out early.

  6. Mark

    Two men, when relatives, or very close friends, do in fact kiss as part of the greeting. It always gets looks when I pick up my dad or brother from the airport in the U.S.

  7. rbfreezeframe

    I’ve been in that awkward situation with 2 kisses v. 3 kisses!!! I’m used to 3 kisses with the Dutch. But, the French greet with only 2 kisses…it’s made for some mildly embarrassing moments!

    • L

      I’ve got some French friends who indeed give 2 kisses. Now that they know the Dutch give 3 kisses whenever we come over they’ll say: 3 kisses, right?

  8. Matthew Stibbe

    I’m half-English so all this kissing on cheeks stuff is very difficult for me. Undemonstrative and Hugh Grant-ish as I am. But I’m married to an actress, so kissing and hugging is a massive part of that luvvy world. Which is confusing but I’m sort of getting the hang of it after 20 years. But now I’m discovering my half-Dutch side and noew there’s THREE kisses to deal with. Oy vey!

  9. kairi

    great blog! you guys should also investigate the strange phenomenon why there is no warm water in the toilet areas where you wash your hands. not even in friggin schipol! being stingy again, or is there something else in there?

    • Victoria Raw

      I’ve often wondered that myself! Washing my hands with freezing water during the winter isn’t very nice!

      • Catherine

        Ah ha! I knew there were other people who noticed this! Whenever I mention the freezing taps to my Dutch friends they just shrug as though they had never considered it. I thought something to do with money saving also.

    • cloggy

      In Schiphol there is no hot running water because some travellers used the sinks as bathtubs making a terrible mess.
      And when a floor gets wet other people might fall witch results in health claims, witch then result in more expansive flighttickets. etc. etc.

  10. Charles

    Just for the record: only lower and middle class people in the Netherlands kiss three times. People from the higher classes (and especially the nobility) will never do that: they kiss one or two times.

    • Frank D

      Haha..this lower and middleclass “gezever” makes me suspect you of being a Middle Class Brit..those always have something to say about class..

    • Kevin M

      The way you say it makes me think you have no idea what you are talking about.

  11. DensetsuShun

    Interesting trivia to know: the three kisses actually mean something. It means(as far as I remember), a kiss for you, a kiss for me and a kiss for the queen.

    • Brigitte

      Being Dutch, never heard of that one! I know that in the late 80’s it went from 2 to three kisses all of a sudden. Really want to figure out why that was, but cant imagine that in the late ’80 we were that monarchistic that we invented the kiss for the queen.

      • Vanoss

        The three kisses came over from the South, where it was customary before the 80s already. And there it was common, no class distinction as far as I can recall.

  12. Moa

    Hem hem hem…
    there is a silent war between in-the-air-kissers
    and the rest of us good, honest, non-fake-ass people who *will* actually kiss you,
    however, no saliva is allowed, as is more than a very slight moistness of the lips.

    Occasionally a runny nose can’t be avoided and is generally forgiven.

    • Eva

      When people have a runny nose, they will excuse themselves, and not kiss you. A handshake will do in those cases. Unless you say you do not mind, then you wil be kissed….

  13. Evelyn

    As for point two: ‘they are strictly reserved for friends and relatives only’, I would like to add that I’ve noticed that friendship in the Netherlands is not quite the same as it is in the US. I met a man once (an American), who worked in the Netherlands for a couple of months and had heard of this rule, so he generally started to give his kisses away to his newly found friends. It was only later that he realised that it really takes some time for the Dutch to consider people as friends and start the kissing ritual. When Dutch people meet new people a couple of times (for example on group holidays), they would rather refer to them as acquaintances or -even better- as ‘people they know’. It is not until time has passed and it has been proven the person is here to stay they hesitatingly start to call someone a friend.

    • RandomDutchie

      Although the friendship thing is definitely true, most Dutch people also like seeing foreigners try to learn our language or customs etc. It’s always nice to see that someone’s interested in your culture ^^ so if a foreigner tries the kissing practise before being seen as an official friend, it won’t be taken badly or anything 🙂 And if people would be uncomfortable, well hey the dutch directness will take care of that haha. But personally I’d find it cute ^^ and am overall ok with it even if it’s already at the second time meeting a person.

      And as a side note, I’m also used to the kissing being actual kisses on the cheek, they only become “air-kisses” accidentally if you hand them out too quickly haha.

    • Arjanne Aleman (@ReportAr84)

      So true. I had an American couchsurfer staying for some days and when he left (only for a couple of hours, he came back later that evening) he gave me a hug. I was totally flabbergasted.

  14. Carolien

    Hmmm… it really depends… I’m Dutch, and I hug my friends rather then kissing them on the cheeks. And I do know some people(no nobility or higher class though!) who give just one kiss on the cheek… It depends on the person I guess…

  15. CBay

    What about congratiolations (f.e. when winning a prize or graduating). I noticed at several occasions that especially men are very eager to kiss me (a Dutch girl) on the cheecks, women do it too.

    • soylaivana

      weird, i’m chilean and it’s always been 1 kiss (right cheek) here in santiago at least (and concepcion) – but we kiss more often, we kiss people we don’t know! as long as they’re friends of friends or whatever

  16. Jeroen


    Great site, laughing at my own oddities, being dutch.

    Regarding one of your questions: no matter how friendly you’ve become with a co-worker, you never kiss on the work place. Of course there is an exception, which is strangely absent from your list: birthdays and new year. At your birthday and the first week(s) of January, it’s not safe in the office. All the ‘gefeliciteerd’ or ‘gelukkig nieuwjaar’ wishes go with kisses. Especially annoying for women, I bet. Apart from that: no kissing in the office.

    Keep up the great work, my English girlfriend will love this!

    • Desirée

      Yes, it’s terrible! Especially when your boss comes over with pouted lips sticking out… I hate the three kisses thing (and I am Dutch!) so I’d rather call in sick for the first week of January 🙁
      I’d rather not kiss at all, just a handshake will do fine, thank you!

      • Petra

        Hahah Desiré I so agree with you! I hate this 3-kisses-thing at work and I dread to go to NewYear ‘recepties’ at work. But trying to avoid it is futile it seems. I’ve tried numerous times to shakes hands with a ‘stiff’ right arm to keep them at a distance, but it only works in 10% of the cases ;-(

      • Desirée

        Ha, glad to have found someone with the same feeling! 🙂

    • Parrhesia

      Yes Desi, I agree, but there are exceptions, for example, when you haven’t seen your dad for quite a long time, I think a daughter might want to be ready to extend the one kiss into two and even three kisses, at least. I am from latin america, and like the chileans above, it was always one, and yes during the 80’s when greeting those pretending to be a “higher class” one might be ready to kiss twice. But I think the willingness to thrice blow air around somebody’s cheeks signifies something special, and if the receiver stops at two then the connection is not smooth, and the sign should be heeded.

  17. Michael

    While heterosexual men usually don’t kiss other male non-relatives, I have seen Dutch gay men do the three-kiss-greeting with other gay men who were only acquaintances.

  18. Edel

    In my circle of friends and relatives the three kisses are followed by a good (American) hug. However, this is strictly reserved for the very special people amongst them. I love the habbit of three kisses, coming from a non-affective family. I think that the whole kissing tradition started in the 80’s. It never happened before since the Dutch were too “puriteins” and stif to do so.

  19. German-in-the-Lowlands

    I really think this post needs a mention of the Dutch-German rivalry and how this air-kissing business distinguishes the Dutch from the Germans. It moves them a little bit closer to the romantic French, Italians, Spanish and all the other Southern-European kissing nations and distances them a bit from those grumpy, passionless Germanic neighbours. Because Germans don’t air-kiss. They hug good friends, kiss family (properly, not in the air), and shake everyone else’s hand, but there are no German air-kisses. When you see Germans air-kiss, they’re either with foreigners or they’re wishing and pretending they were in Hollywood (e.g. TV stars or wannabes).

  20. Sitonthebox

    That’s why I don’t like ‘customs’, they only cause confusion. Especially in the Netherlands, where there seems to be so many different customs at one place, so I’m constantly left confused as to what to do: hand, one kiss, more?

  21. eli

    Actually it depends. Rule 2 is important plus the remark about who is considered a friend. Cultural differences … yes !

    There are no classes in NL, but for the classic, it’s really only one kiss, .. in the air. classic etiquette.

  22. Joshua

    Back in the early sixties it was one kiss and a hug, now it’s three kisses. When I visisted Holland I was initially very confused by the 3 kisses (and a few other things that had changed a lot). We never kissed friends at school. The distinction between friends and family on one hand and acquantances on the other was always more significant in Holland than in English speaking countries. People kept introducing me to ‘friends’ they only saw once in a while. Being Dutch my first reaction to Facebook friending was that anarchy had broken out. Facebook has eventually come to its senses and now has close friends and family as distinct from aquantances for those that know the difference (or care).

  23. Chris Winter

    Well, you might call it confusing, but then there is the Hugging in Sweden. During my six years there, I discovered there are double-armed-bear-hugs, double-armed-slightly-lighter-hugs, single-armed-tight-hugs and single-armed-distance-hugs all for varying degrees of familiarity (or drunkenness) at the time of hugging. Moreover, sometimes a kiss or two are thrown in, but one cannot really predict when, and sometimes hands are shaken at the same time.

    To be honest, this seems like something the Swedes introduced quite recently, since before they used to be a very distant and hierarchical bunch. It has always given me great pleasure to try ‘n’ figure out group dynamics by observing the hugging and handshaking going on in groups of natives. 😉

    So the three-kiss thing is quite simple in that it is completely uniform across all of society. Now in Israel I noticed there are many customs depending on the group of people you have in front of you. The Sephardic Jews, Ashkenazim, Mizrachim and the group of former USSR state immigrants usually denoted as “The Russians” all have different nuances to greeting, where the Sephardic and Mizrachi people have the closest cultural markers to the Palestinians and Jordanians.

    Having said all that, social conventions are confusing for any foreigner that lives in a given society.

  24. Anton

    It’s left-right-left.

    Always was, always will be

    • E. de Klerk

      That is the same as “right cheek – left cheek – right cheek”

  25. Karen

    The infamous ‘Three kisses’ are not usually exchanged with people on sees daily. For example, friends from school/work/university are not kissed untill you haven’t seen them for some time (during summer holidays for instance). When one sees them more often, they are simply greeted with a simple hi, unless they have something to celebrate. Then the three kisses are polite, but not necessarily required. Family you don’t see too often is greeted with three kisses, but parents and siblings are usually also greeted with ‘hi’ or a single kiss to the cheek or a hug, even if you haven’t seen them for some time.

    Embarassing things like smacking cheekbones or spit on cheeks are not usually mentioned. A simple ‘sorry’ for a painfull encounter will do, because it is usually concidered to embarrasing for both kisser and kissee to dwell on. Spit is not wiped off untill you are sure the other person isn’t looking :).

    Being Dutch myself, I never thought these rules were complicated, but I realise it is for other people. Although, the Dutch have some dilemmas too. For instance, it is sometimes awkward for a woman to kiss a male friend, even if it’s on the cheek. Male-Female kissing is usually reserved for family, in-laws and friends who are very certain they will never develop any romantic feelings for each-other.

  26. Sandra

    3 kisses is not something ‘Dutch’. Dutch people started giving 3 kisses because they saw this being done by de foreign cultures in their country. 3 Kisses is a normal behaviour in the Muslim society. Turkish, Arabs and Surinam people were already doing this and this is how Dutch people took over this habit.

    • Arthur

      I’m originally from the south of the Netherlands (born in Limburg, raised in Noord Brabant), and to me three kisses were very normal throughout the 1960/70s. But then, when I started studying in Utrecht and later in Amsterdam, I noticed it wasn’t a common custome there at all. And indeed I was told, it was something that only people from the south would do. Well, it’s spread almost everywhere by now, it seems, though I’m not sure about Friesland and Groningen..

    • Rob

      I think it was in the eightees when we saw the French (on holiday) kiss 3 times, we started doing it too. Before it was 2 kisses. I believe the French then moved on to 4 but then got back to terms: now it is 2 again

  27. Riannon

    RE: Rule No. 10. During my first visit with my Dutch boyfriend we were staying with a friend in Amsterdam. Her apartment building was directly across from a school building, and the children happened to be trickling out for the day as we were sharing a lovely long-distance-longing-relief moment out front, completely ignoring this exception to the Kissing Laws. It only took about 30 seconds for not one but TWO kids in the 7-10 range to approach us and– in the youngest demonstration of classic Dutch directness I have ever witnessed– say to us (in Dutch, obviously), “Excuse me, but we really don’t like that. Could you go home and do that?”
    Dat kan niet.
    Up yours, kids. Dat kan wel. XD

  28. Monique

    You know what I find very strange. Why not kiss a person when you meet her for the first time? It is for me confusing: when you meet somebody you just say your name and shake hands. Let’s suppose that you go to a party, you shake hands with the person who invited you (you don’t know him), after two hours you leave the party but during this time you didn’t have chance to talk to him or her. When you say good bye, you get the three kisses on your cheeks, even if you know that there is a high possibility not to see the person again. Can anybody explain to me why is that?
    By the way, you said that the rule is: right, left, right. So, if you start kissing, you kiss the other person on her right cheek? Or it’s the cheek to your right (her left cheek)? Help!

    • femkevandrooge

      Yes that ís quite awkward, but it’s also a situation every Dutch person has experienced sometime as well. Usually when first meeting someone, you don’t kiss because you don’t know eachother yet. After having a good time together, the acquantaince is usually judged to be sufficiently evolved to get the ‘stamp of approval’ of the 3-times kissing ritual.

      If you haven’t actually got to talk to the host at all in the evening, it’s very likely that the host just lost count and decided to say goodbye to everybody like friends and kiss, even though not all guests actually are. Sometimes it’s quite difficult after a party to know who is on good enough terms to kiss and who is not. Also it often feels awkward for a host when he/she has been kissing everybody that says goodbye, to suddenly NOT kiss someone and extend a hand instead – then it suddenly feels like a statement that this one person in the party is judged unworthy of the kiss.

      Say what you like about our directness, but Dutch people can actually be quite nuanced in their social behavior sometimes 😉

      Oh and furthermore, it’s the right cheek OF the other person (and your own) so it’s the cheek TO your left 🙂

  29. Jasper

    As far as history of kisses go in Europe, they are likely a remnant of the old rituals of swearing fealty to certain persons and/or offices. Lords and vassals would kiss (on the cheek!) to ‘seal the deal’, servants sometimes kissed the rings that represented authority of offices (like bishop rings).
    It’s in line with the custom of shaking hands which was to show to the other that you did not bear (hidden) arms.
    Nowadays it’s more an sign of clear affection (of course) and is therefore only reserved to (very) good friends and relatives whom you haven’t seen for a while or when congratulating/being congratulated by (close) aquaintances (depending on the situation, the more personal the experience [a birthday > a business promotion] the closer the appropriate circle.)
    – student historian

  30. Marloes

    First I want to say I really love this blog! But unless I’m from the Netherlands, I actually rarely greet friends of me by kissing them. I prefer to hug them, and most of my friends arent used to this way of greeting (the kissing) either.

  31. Barb

    I find the Dutch in America to be the coldest people I’ve ever known and I’m one of them! My family never kissed each other-grandmother, mother, father, uncles or aunts. Nieces, nephews or grandchildren were never hugged or kissed. I finally know why. The Dutch who came to America fled because of all the kissing in Holland. Amazing!

  32. Kimberley

    Ah, I’m Dutch and I didn’t even know I had to start on the right. So that’s why people always look so confused!

    • E. de Klerk

      You start on the LEFT, pressing your right cheek against the other persons right cheek.

    • cloggy

      It happened to me too a couple of times !
      Pretty awkward to kiss someone you just met on the lips because yes that happened !
      Sometimes i still see people struggle with it so i just look at where they point there lips (mostly outwards so away from your cheek)

  33. Ellie

    I got super-shocked at all the hugging, kissing and handshaking when I first came to NL (from the UK). Why the heck would I want to kiss someone at work? Why do I need to shake your hand/hug/kiss when we’ve already met? We go into a meeting with people I talk to on the phone everyday but there’s a huge delay as we have to all hug and kiss each other first of all, then when people need to leave in a hurry to catch their flights there’s more demonstrative bidding farewell.

    Having send that, I now feel a bit put out when someone leaves the room without hugging or kissing me first… I’m going to try to introduce this practise to the UK workplace on my return!!

  34. femkestrietman

    I dont kiss my coworkers! I do kissing as a formal greeting to people I haven’t seen for a while, to congratulate people, people I actually do like. If I see a friend I give them ONE kiss which is much more informal and sincere. If I don’t like someone or don’t know someone I will not kiss them, which is also a way of saying ‘I dont like you’.

  35. Hank Prinsen

    Be aware that there are also people who don’t like all this kissing at all. So beware of their bodylanguage. These people also like to avoid new years party’s.

  36. Terion

    It should be noted that in the region of (east) Twente, many people don’t do this at all. Even though being good neighbours and helping each other out is a traditional right and duty. This may be because of the neighbourship practice, since farmers generally helped each other out on the fields often, especially during harvest season. Early morning, the host for that day would be waiting with a pot of coffee on the table in the scullery. The neighbours would start showing up and simply speak a single greeting to everyone in the room. Settle down and drink coffee. As soon as the last person was finished, they would head off to the fields to work.

    • Terion

      I should have said ‘kitchen’ instead of ‘scullery’. The traditional Twents farm kitchen has some features that are more closely associated with a scullery, which made me confuse them for a second.

    • Maaike

      You are right, this way of greeting is less common in the Eastern part of the Netherlands. See my explanation below. It came in the eighties from Brabant and ‘infected’ mostly the western part of the country.

  37. Momo

    What I find really funny about this whole -what-dutchie-slike blog is finding out how seriously the Dutch take it all… I am from Latin America, we also ahve a lot of things we do “our way” but we are not so serious about it… if you dont understand it because you are an outsider, we understand that you are an outsider and do not expect you to know everything… The Dutch seem to be offended if you don’t act “their way”… Where I come from, we smile and feel good you are at least trying to be a part of our culture… Is being arrogant a Dutch thing as well? Dont take me wrong… I love Holland, have some very good dutch friends… but I cannot help it but think you are all a bit too much :O)

    • Desirée

      Actually Momo, you are quite right. We Dutchies do take ourselves too seriously sometimes, and no matter how much we complain about our country, any outsider who critiques it, offends us, so we instantly shoot up defending our country and habits.
      It’s like how we ourselves can insult our family members, but when someone else does it, we get mad. We feel it’s not their place to insult what’s ours.

    • femkevandrooge

      What Desirée says. We complain a lot about our own country, but we are actually quite proud of our quirky Dutch ways and most of us feel quickly offended if someone not Dutch comments on it. That is one of the reasons why Sinterklaas is our favorite holiday – it is unique in its Dutchness and makes us feel unique and special. Maybe it’s a symptom of a slight inferiority complex – after all, we’re such a small country in the big, bad world. It feels comforting to have our own identity and weird things 😉

  38. Maaike

    The three kisses-greetings haven’t always been part of Dutch culture. It ‘ínfected’ the Netherlands in the eighties, and it started in Brabant (that is why it is called ‘een Brabantse drieklapper’).
    In the seventies, when I was a child, in my family we knew just one person who would greet us this way, namely the wife of my dads cousin. This couple visited us once a year and my father would hide in his toolshed until all the greeting was done and the coffee was served, because he felt so uncomfortable with her way of greeting us…
    Actually, a lot of Dutch people don’t like the three-kisses thing either. If you don’t like it too, be quick to stretch your arm for an oldfasioned handshake (in such a way that there is quite some space between you and the other person). Smile gently and say ‘Nothing personal, but I don’t like the kissing thing,'(Dutch people would say frankly: “Ik hou niet zo van dat gelebber’!)

  39. Lexuss

    I am dutch but living in Spain now and kissing is more important here.. you cant introduce yourself to anyone with just shaking hands… that is considered really rude and impersonal.. here you have to kiss everyone even people you dont know.

  40. Kiki

    After five years I’m getting used to the kissing, but there’s still the occasional male friend who goes for the corners of my mouth, which is a little awkward, especially considering most of those are my partner’s friends (8 years, two kids, a house, still no ring. Guess where he’s from? 😉 ).

  41. Tclarissa9

    I live in Brazil and here, while the population is very affectionate (elderly couples getting at it in the garage at the supermarket), giving anyone 3 kisses on the cheek means you love them enough to get married! This leads to many awkward situations and collisions at the elevator when there is a mixture of Dutch and Brazilians at a reception party (especially because I look more Brazilian than Dutch).

    • Jess

      Um in Brazil people usually kiss twice, one on each cheek. Single women kiss a third time as a good luck superstition to get married. However, I rather just shake hands.

  42. cloggy

    I seem to insult people on a daily basis, simply by not shacking hands a second time we meet.
    I was thought that shacking hands was to convince each other that you are unarmed.
    And i believe that after one handshake. So when friend or relatives come over and tretch our their hand I usually saw that we allready met.
    They think It’s rude I think It’s nice for them to know I trust them haha LOL

  43. cloggy

    Btw I know that not everybody washes their hands after visiting the toilet (please do)

  44. Constanza

    In Argentina numbers 1,2,,4,5,6,7 and 8 are the rule too. In fact it’s pretty much the same system except that you only kiss once instead of three times. I have a friend from Galicia (Spain) and they give too kisses, one on each side of the face.

  45. winona571

    I like this article, because this article give me an explanation, why suddenly a good looking guy (Flemish) come to me and kiss my cheek. 😀
    As an Asian student, (East Asia by origin, and South East Asia by nationality) I was very shock when he kiss me. I know him for about 6 weeks, and I meet him only 3 times within 6 weeks. And almost all in formal situation, like briefing.
    In my culture, it is not common to kiss each other even in the cheek, between men and women. And in my family, especially, my father and my brothers never kiss me since I was teenager. They just kiss me when I was a baby or a toddler.
    That’s why, I feel confused how to respond his greeting kiss….But it is okay for me… It is very interesting to learn another culture / habit.

  46. Bas

    Funnily enough, I remember growing up in the south of the Netherlands in the 80s there was always a lot of kissing going on in TV quizzes and game shows as well. However if candidates were from the south of the Netherlands, there was always a joke, you are from ‘beneden de rivieren’, therefore three kisses. Apparently in the north and west ‘boven de rivieren’ two kisses were the norm. Somehow this changed however, not sure when exactly?

  47. Tamar

    Most students in Utrecht, where I live, only give each other 1 kiss (always on the right cheek). Always gives awkward situation when you encounter someone who wants to go in for the second kiss when you have already pulled back!

  48. Nia

    About 3 years ago, my family from netherland take a holiday to my country indonesia, when we met, we are really happy because it’s already a very long time we never see each other.. so i hug my aunt and kiss her on the cheek for two times (like indonesian culture).. then she said, just two times? And i was thinking, where i should kiss her again?? Hahahaha.. but then we moving because there is too many family at the reunion that time, and a lot of family member to be greeting..
    now i know why she’s talking like that 😀 next time i meet her again i would do these three times kissing on the cheek..

    Thank u SDPL for these information!

  49. Peter

    Being Dutch I don’t know where this “3-kiss” system comes from or when and what for it was established. When I was living in The Netherlands, back in the 50-60-70s it was just 1 kiss. Just for close female family members. Nowadays, when I go back I sometimes get distracted and leave aunts, cousins, etc. leaning forward in vain after one kiss. They really must like me.
    On the other hand, I’ve observed the procedure as a non-participant and it is something like “pecking”. Like a chicken does with a tasty worm. And a certain distance between the bodies is always respected.
    My Mexican wife is much more expressive. She hugs. Both men and women. That sometimes causes some distress and bewilderment with the Dutch. In exchange they don’t get 3 kisses. Just one. Culture…
    The Russians however….

  50. Henk

    “7. Men generally only kiss women (apart from their relatives).”
    Not in our family – men might kiss kids three times, but as soon as the boys are a little older that stops.

    I visited acquaintances in Poland once and was expected to kiss all the men – yuk!

    My mother-in-law took over our 3x habit and always kisses me three times. Only me though and other Dutch people though – nobody else! 🙂

  51. The Kissing Culture – How Many? – Amsterdam Expat Journey – Mum, Wife & Woman

    […] 1. It is common practice to greet people with kisses. 2. Kisses, however, are not indiscriminately dolled out to anyone; they are strictly reserved for friends and relatives only. 3. The norm these days is three kisses on the cheek. 4. These kisses are, however, are not actual kisses on the cheek; they are more like air-kisses and your moist lips dare not actually touch the other person. 5. The three air-kisses are used to greet someone and used again to say goodbye. 6. Women are all about the kissing. Women kiss women. And women kiss men. 7. Men generally only kiss women (apart from their relatives). 8. Two men greet instead with a very manly and firm handshake. 9. Kissing follows the pattern right cheek – left cheek – right cheek; don’t dare go rogue or you are sure to cause a face-on collision. 10. Even with all this daily kissing going on, it is still not the norm to french-kiss in public. The Dutch would rather you left that type of kissing at home. Full article Stuff Dutch People Like  […]

  52. Martijn

    I say free kisses for everyone! It’s just somting we do. Even when excited over a sport of some kind men wil hug and kiss I realy don’t think we are the only ones.

  53. Tessa Vosselman

    In my social groups, we only kiss when we congratulate each other or haven’t seen each other in a while, like family. I don’t kiss my friends unless it’s a special occasion. And you wouldn’t kiss someone you see daily, like your example: a colleague who becomes a friend. I don’t think we’re that much of a kissy bunch ;). Unless I’m outside the norm.

  54. Anja

    Travelling through Eritrea and watching air kisses between locals and counted SEVEN – must be a record!!

  55. Bastiaan

    It`s not very common to give “air”-kisses . Me, my friends and family never give “fake-“kisses .Men also don`t just give each other a firm hand when they greet : only of you hardly know each other , otherwise it is a hug or a few taps on the back .In my own surroundings many – mostly young- men kiss each other, THOSE kisses, are more like air-kisses. It seems a trend . I can imagine when you live outside of the big cities, things would be different.

  56. myka jelier

    Enter Canada:) no smacking and air kissing.. just a good old handshake or a hug and squeeze, and the guys end it with a slap on the back. I dread my dutch family and friends doing this everytime they visit. GAG.

  57. alexa

    3 Kussen ja, is dat om de indruk te wekken ‘wat een leuke hartelijke mensen zijn wij!’


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