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Beijos In Brazil – A Peek Into Brazilian Kissing Culture

In Blog, Brazil by Kay17 Comments

sunset kiss

Photo Credit: Brian Richardson via Flickr Creative Commons

“Oi! Tudo bem?”

My new friend beams as she leans forward towards my face. She then proceeds to give me two blatantly loud kisses, one on each cheek, with her arms in a full embrace around my shoulders. I return the gesture politely. Oddly enough, the girl is standing so close I can smell her perfume, floral and sweet. After the greeting is over, she steps back and we resume talking about whatever it was we were originally saying. You might be thinking – why the heck is that girl kissing you if she has never even met you? Don’t you have a boyfriend? What is going on? In the same situation, maybe you’d feel that your space was invaded, or you wouldn’t know how to respond. Don’t worry, amigos, all will be revealed.

Needless to say, from the very first moment you meet a person until they’ve adopted you into their family, kissing is a big thing here in Brazil. Generally, you’ll find yourself giving these types of kisses to people you don’t know, people you do know, friends of friends, and close friends. Not giving this kind of outward affection can be considered rude or cold in many cases, and can easily be taken the wrong way. So, here’s a little glimpse of what you can expect, kiss-wise, when you’re with a group of Brazilians:

Introductory Kiss

Most relationships of every kind in Brazil start with a kiss, unlike the American custom of simple handshakes or nods. The practice here in Rio de Janeiro, called dois beijos, is this: when you first meet someone, you offer them two kisses, one on each cheek, paying extra attention to making them heard by the receiving party. Girls kiss girls, girls kiss boys, and boys kiss girls (but typically boys don’t kiss boys, unless they have a close enough relationship  to warrant such behavior). The concept of space here in Brazilian cities is a much smaller margin, so don’t be surprised if people come really close when they greet you. Usually, it’s just a sign of affection or friendliness.

This custom differs, however, from state to state in Brazil. In São Paulo, for example, it is customary to just give one kiss to the other person upon meeting them. In Salvador and Bahia, it’s three kisses (two on one cheek, one on the other, alternating). In order to know how many kisses to give, take the other person’s cue. If they go for more than one, then follow along. If they are hesitant after the first one, then stop and end the gesture there. Mastering the art of reading other people’s kissing cues is important so you never make an embarrassing mistake!

Greetings

Much like the introductory kiss, when you see a friend or family member, it is a sign of respect and affection to give them one or two kisses on the cheek(s) and a big hug as you greet them. Again, it can be seen as standoffish or rude if you don’t.

Also, when you’re saying goodbye, do the same thing – one or two kisses and a hug. If you’re with a big group of people saying goodbye and don’t want to kiss all of them, just blow a big kiss in the air and say “Beijos” or “Tchau gente.” Your point will come across and you’ll still be seen as polite and friendly.

Signatures

You may get an email or text message from someone you barely know that is signed “Um beijo” or “Beijinhos” or “Beijão” and think to yourself, oh my gosh, what is this person trying to do? Are they crazy? Why is my teacher/boss/neighbor sending me kisses via the Interwebs?!?! Don’t be alarmed. Many people, especially Brazilian women, sign their emails or end their phone calls with some form of the word “beijo.” It’s quite common, actually, to overhear “um beiiiiiijo, tchau” while riding on the bus or walking on the street.

Public Displays of Affection

Public displays of affection (PDA) are extremely common here in Brazil. It seems to be on every street corner, in every restaurant, at school, and of course, on the beach. It is normal for people to be making out on the street, and most people seem to pay no attention to it. Unlike the USA, where PDA can get a little bit weird around parents, friends, in public, or in a group of singles, it is perfectly acceptable here. Don’t feel awkward when your Brazilian friend and her boyfriend start kissing as they’re waiting for the walk signal on a street corner – it’s just a simple fact of life.

Party Culture

From personal experience (one I’ll share later on this lovely little blog) I have learned that men in Brazil can be especially aggressive and forward, specifically in the nightlife setting. Ladies, when you’re at the club with your friends, you may have men who grab you by the arm, put their arms around you, or just dive straight in for the kiss (trust me, all three have happened to me). If this happens and you are uncomfortable with it, politely say something like “Não, desculpa. Estou com amigas agora.” I usually just tell the guy that I have a boyfriend and that he’s away currently but he’ll be returning soon (the truth, in fewer words I suppose). In short, ladies can typically expect to be confronted by men at clubs, especially ones with fewer women, and kissing on the dance floor is certainly something that happens in great numbers here.

Basically, kissing is everywhere in Brazil and it’s rather unavoidable, especially if you’re planning to hang out with a lot of Brazilian people. In a nutshell, if you’re coming to Brazil, expect to get kissed. A lot.

Um beijo, gente. Até a próxima!

Have you ever experienced a culture that was extremely affectionate? What did you think? Share your stories and thoughts in the comments!

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Comments

  1. Having been in France, Italy and South America, I am now completely confused as to how to greet someone. As I’m English, the typical greeting upon meeting someone is a handshake which then progresses to a hug and one kiss on the cheek when you know them. In France, it is usually two kisses starting left to right (although this depends on the region) and in Italy, it is again two kisses but this starts right to left. In South America (outside of Brazil) it is usually one kiss on the left cheek. Unfortunately now back home, I am doing a little dance as I try to decifer what is the most appropriate greeting. I am completely lost!

    1. Author

      Haha, thanks for stopping by! I agree – different countries always seem to have different greetings. I always just try to take the cues of the person I’m greeting 🙂

  2. All very true. I have a Brazilian GF and when we are in clubs in Brazil I literally have to keep my arm around her to prevent guys trying to drag her away- apparently my presence by her side on its own is not sufficient! I was also a bit excited by her email signoff of “beijos” in the beginning, only to find it meant nothing special. It’s when they write the cuter “beijinhos” that you know they kinda like you 😉

    1. Author

      The guys here are nuts! Unfortunately my Brazilian boyfriend is back in the states (ironic, right?) so I have to stand my guard in the nightclubs here! Yikes!

  3. I’ve been in Asia for over 8 months where there is basically no overt public display of affection. At home in the UK, I kiss all of my friends on the lips whenever I see them, so it’s been really weird to not touch and kiss people. Sounds like I’d fit in well in Brazil 🙂

    1. Author

      Haha you’d love it here. People kiss people, and it’s just typical life. It’s considered rude in most cases NOT to kiss!

    2. I’m a Brazilian and I must say: we DO NOT kiss ANYONE on the lips! Not even friends. The kisses are all on the cheek, and honestly, you basically kiss the air, you don’t even touch the other person’s cheek with your lips.

  4. The Lebanese must be the most affectionate people I’ve ever interacted with. What will begin as the 3 kiss (Left-Right-Left), which occurs between women-men women-women and more times than not men-men (unless it’s business), will rapidly escalate to hugs and any other sort of platonic physical contact. We thrive off of the touch of others; it’s how we reassure one another that we’re being genuine.

    The dating scene isn’t as friendly. I took a Lebanese girl out several times only to witness man after man walk up to her and ask if she was with her brother. If you plan on taking a girl out (or a female wanting to go out) in South America or the Middle East, get ready to face some bold men.

    1. Author

      Haha so true. It’s kind of like a video game almost – dodging men who are barreling at you here and there. Good thing I’m always up for a challenge 😛

  5. Glad you wrote this post! Kissing in the party context is definitely something that we took note of during the few nights we spent partying in Lapa. Everyone was kissing! Perfect strangers would just walk up to each other and start going at it! We’d kind of just stop dancing and stare in amazement! 🙂

    1. Author

      Definitely true. Lapa is especially bad for the forward kissing maneuvers. It goes both ways, too. One time, a woman walked up to a friend of mine and was flirting with him the whole night. She leaned in to kiss him then admitted she was a prostitute! Good thing we were able to get out of there quickly after…

  6. Hmmm this is interesting i spent two years in India (Hyderabad), and by the time i returned home “i was virtually in a state of panic when a girl came too close to me”, then i came to Brazil 3 months ago just to find out everybody kisses everybody and i think i need more time to completely adapt lol. Am English we usually do the handshake thing and that’s it.

  7. Actually in Salvador it’s two beijos. But sometimes people (men) will tell you it’s three, or say the third one is for “good luck in love.” But in the few years I’ve lived here, that’s the only case I’ve seen three kisses.

    Great post!

  8. This post is awesome because Im always teaching my “gringos” friends how to greet here. And the best part is that they fell so strange giving kisses and hugs! hauah Nice post!

  9. After living in America for two years, it was hard for me to adapt back to the Brazilian friendly-kissy way even though I’m a local! In the beginning I just wanted my personal space back lol.
    Here in the south we always do 3 kisses, we say that the third one is for gook luck in finding a husband/wife.. It’s a silly tradition but inherent in the ‘gauchos’.

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