Hugging and cheek-kissing in southeast Europe. The does and don’ts

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Do you know what to do with hugging and cheek-kissing in southeast Europe? Do you know which countries kiss twice and others three times?

One time in the mid-1990s I had to walk the last kilometre to the Bulgaria-Macedonian border uphill with heavy luggage. This was pre-mobile phone days, so I had no idea if anyone would be waiting for me. Just as I approached the border post, I saw someone who looked like my father… it was his cousin (honestly, they look like twins). He ran up to me and practically attacked me with kisses on the cheek. The Aussie in me was rather shocked by this.😳

☝️ Here are the the basic norms I’ve learnt (usually from great error) for hugging and cheek-kissing when meeting people in various countries of Southeast Europe:

🤗 People don’t tend to hug each other as often as they think they do.
🤗 You hug people you know very well only (relatives and very close friends). It would be a bit weird to hug a stranger or even an acquaintance.
😘 Cheek-kissing is more common, but again usually with people you know well and upon meeting people you haven’t seen in a while.
😘 Cheek-kissing is usual between all genders, but not so in Bulgaria where its extremely rare between males.
😘 Bulgarians in general are not into cheek-kissing anywhere near as much as in other parts of the Balkans.
😘 The amount of cheek-kisses, though, is very important and varies between ethnicities:
2️⃣ times for Croats, Bosniaks, Bulgarians, Albanians and Greeks
3️⃣ times for Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians
😘 Nowadays, for more informal situations and particularly in urban environments, just the one cheek-kiss is usually sufficient.
😘 Cheek-kissing the “wrong” amount of times can be seen as disdain for that person, so be careful.
😘 Actually, the whole two/three kisses rule is emphasised as a major cultural difference between Serbs and Croats. Just refer to Serbia’s 2010 Eurovision entry (Milan Stankovic with Ovo je Balkan [This is the Balkans] where the chorus goes “not once, not twice but three times, Belgrade, Belgrade, three times is our way.”
😘 The cheek order is right-left [-right], though Albanians tend for left-right.

Please let me know if any of my observations are not accurate.

🫵 What are the rules for hugging and cheek-kissing in your culture when meeting people? What is your preference? And have you ever committed a social faux pas with hugging and cheek-kissing?