To smooch or not to smooch
September 28, 2006 10:00 PM   Subscribe

Chivalry filter: If a lady offers her hand to a gentleman, palm down, and they're someowhere causual like say, a coffee shop, should the gent kiss the lady's hand? Is there a formal way to receive the hand besides smooching it?
posted by serazin to Human Relations (24 answers total)
Formal, I'm not sure, but this has happened to me a couple of times and I just shake her hand, sometimes with my two hands "sandwiching" hers (if you can picture that). I think manners are very important, but I'm not ready to step back in time and put my mouth on the back of someone's hand with no good reason. That said, I think every time this has happened to me the woman has expected a kiss on the back of her hand. Maybe the fact that I'm not willing to do it means that I'm a bit rude or something and that manners aren't as important to me as I think. I just think it's an odd thing to do. but, YM, as they say, MV.
posted by bunglin jones at 10:10 PM on September 28, 2006

Just shake it softly.
posted by kcm at 10:10 PM on September 28, 2006

Just receiving the hand until it's withdrawn and giving a small nod or bow can work.
posted by facetious at 10:10 PM on September 28, 2006

These days, as much as women love Chivalry, a kiss on the hand is very out of place and strange.

Surely in the right situation it'd be considered cute and a girl would appreciate it - but as far as the whole "given a random sample of women offering their hand in this manner" thing, I'd recommend against the kiss on the hand - it'd probably be viewed as strange, and definitely would not be expected.
posted by twiggy at 10:12 PM on September 28, 2006

Handsmooching should be reserved for Renaissance fairs. Anyplace else it's just weird.
posted by fuzzbean at 10:18 PM on September 28, 2006

No hand kissing unless you know her well, it is a bit of an affectation in our modern world. I just curl my fingers under hers, lift her hand slightly, and give a very small bow/nod.
posted by Iron Rat at 10:19 PM on September 28, 2006

I think some women offer their hands that way, simply to remind ham fisted men like me that their tiny paws are fragile, and to "Please don't shake hands hard!" I take their point, and will take their hand with only a couple of fingers, for a moment, with a slight lift and a nod, to satisfy custom.

It's usually satisfactory, I think.
posted by paulsc at 10:21 PM on September 28, 2006

I was taught (by a very strict and formal Yankee grandmother) that when a woman offers her hand (in the way you describe) that you grasp only her first knuckles and kiss it (lips to her flesh) when outdoors; when indoors you grasp and "air kiss" with no contact between lips and hand.
posted by ericb at 10:33 PM on September 28, 2006

But -- in 1922 -- Emily Post had different ideas regarding women shaking hands.
posted by ericb at 10:40 PM on September 28, 2006

If you are in Poland, you are expected to kiss it if offerred in this way.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:54 PM on September 28, 2006

Recently, a guy I was being introduced to took my hand like so, bent down as if to kiss the back, but instead gently pressed his forehead to it.

I was touched. So I'd recommend that if you can pull it off.
posted by granted at 11:25 PM on September 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

I deal with an assortment of cultures in my line of work. So, I answer this question from a "business" perspective. I am female, and so when females from countries outside of USA offer me their hands in this manner, I "shake" their hands in accordance with what is expected. If I am in another country, I respect their own traditions. I would expect the same from the males in my department. Of course, business dealings are quite different from casual dealings and I can't comment on that, as we all adjust appropriately according to whom we are socializing. If someone were to kiss my hand, I would judge their dealings in accordance with their geography's approach to social and business engagements, which are sometimes quite different from what I am used to as an American.
posted by kamikazegopher at 11:51 PM on September 28, 2006

granted: Was he Filipino and younger than you, perchance?
posted by nathan_teske at 11:59 PM on September 28, 2006

If you are in Poland, you are expected to kiss it if offerred in this way.

That's an important point--in the always-informal USofA, hand kissing is quaint and old-fashioned, but in other parts of the world, namely Europe, I can imagine it being much more common. Makes me think of rich old people in a Monaco casino or something.
posted by zardoz at 2:19 AM on September 29, 2006

On the rare occasions when this has happened to me, I just went ahead and shook it, thinking What, you expected me to actually kiss your hand? Lay off the meds, baby.
posted by bingo at 4:59 AM on September 29, 2006

What, you expected me to actually kiss your hand? Lay off the meds, baby.

Haha! People from other cultures are so cra-a-azee!!

I think the "gentle shake plus nod or slight bow" approach should work.
posted by languagehat at 6:03 AM on September 29, 2006

I think it bears noting that the gesture is meant to ellicit a mock kiss, not a real kiss.

While historically the gesture involved actual flesh to flesh contact, the modern greeting has involved into a gesture hinting at the past but not involving actual flesh/flesh contact.

Most importantly the gesture is to be subtle and not the dramatic slobbery nonsense you see in hollywood. None of the "bending at the waist and pressing your lips to the woman's hand" nonsense.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 6:16 AM on September 29, 2006

Shake the lady's hand gently. Hand-kissing is not an American custom. In fact, few Americans even understand that the only hand a gentleman may kiss is that of a married lady. It's a gesture of respect to her married state and not to the lady per se. It is the worst form to kiss the hand of a lady without knowing her marital status; if she's a divorcee, for example, you will have committed a major faux pas. So, in general, no hand-kissing.

Well, all right. If you happen to find yourself at an embassy ball and you are introduced to the wife of the French ambassador, then you would probably be thought charming if you kissed her hand. (Which of course does not involve any actual kissing; rather, the gesture is to shake the hand once, then to bend forward until the lips are in close proximity to the hand, then return to the upright position, and then release the hand. Under no circumstances should your lips actually come into contact her with hand.)

A coffee shop is not an embassy ball, so shaking is all any lady should expect.
posted by La Cieca at 7:24 AM on September 29, 2006

I think, in the US, paulsc has it right - if anyone but a Southern lady offers her hand palm down, she is probably expecting you to take it lightly with your right hand palm-up, squeeze very gently (perhaps putting your left hand in top of her right, if you are very familiar), and then release. If you are a true gentleman, you could probably pull off a slight bow. If a guy kissed my hand in a coffee shop in the USA, I would probably definitely be a little creeped out.
posted by muddgirl at 7:47 AM on September 29, 2006

With your left hand, scratch your right armpit, and with your right hand, scratch the top of your head.
posted by DenOfSizer at 7:55 AM on September 29, 2006

I also agree with Paulsc. I have rheumatoid arthritis, (at 35yo), and many women with that disease or with osteoarthritis will offer their hand palm down to avoid a painful handshake. That may not be why she did it, but it's a useful tip for why some people do.
posted by saffry at 7:58 AM on September 29, 2006

The only time my hand was ever kissed was in coffee shops. By goth boys. Like, the REALLY goth boys. With walking sticks and canes and eyeliner and whatnot. I was terribly impressed by it when I was 15.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 8:08 AM on September 29, 2006

You folks rule, as usual.

It sounds like the most sensible approach (exceptions allowed for the dashingly dramatic gent) is to gently take the hand, perhaps lift it slightly, and then offer a small nod.
posted by serazin at 8:21 AM on September 29, 2006

Haha! People from other cultures are so cra-a-azee!!

Yeah, well. I'm not talking about 'people from other cultures.' I'm talking about people from my own culture, who are putting on a ridiculous affectation.
posted by bingo at 12:38 PM on September 29, 2006

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