Sunday 31 August 2014

The Chinese kiss of death

Social kissing has become another version of public humiliation just waiting to happen and there seems to be no definitive guide on how to kiss in Hong Kong.

Who do you kiss and when and where? How many times and in what order?

It's painfully confusing and getting it wrong can be a social disaster.

At one exclusive  public reception at a smart hotel  in Kowloon, I was introduced to the hostess who offered such an alluring smile of welcome, that I inexplicably felt compelled to launch myself towards her for a social kiss. Stooping down and  puckering up simultaneously in a most unsightly manner, it must have made a terrifying spectacle for the poor woman.  As I aimed for her right cheek, her warm smile turned to a look of impending horror and like someone avoiding a nasty car-crash, she deftly stepped back a pace as I approached. I missed her cheek by a considerable distance and stumbling, collided heavily with a table of savoury snacks.

A simple etiquette guide would avoid this sort of social embarrassment. In France they seem to master these delicate social intimacy issues with consummate ease and  across South America people are embracing everyone like old comrades, so why are we so inhibited in this city?

One friend told me that at the conclusion of one particularly dreary private reception, he was invited to kiss his hostess's hand like a knight from the round table about to depart for battle in her honour. Instead, he left her snooty party only in search of a taxi that might transport him to to the Star Ferry.

And what about air kissing? Is that insincere or just more hygienic? What if your host or hostess is wearing a sanitary face mask?  Should you just  go for it anyway, safe in the knowledge you are unlikely to contract avian flu?

Perhaps the recent internet sensation of  "somersault kissing" should be introduced as the obligatory greeting at Hong Kong's premier social functions. For those not familiar with the popular manoeuvre, it requires one person to bend forward,  burying their head in the host's crotch. The host then flips their partner  backwards through 180 degrees by jerking violently upwards on their guest's buttocks.  If successfully implemented, the guest ends up  straddling the host's waste and is able to give them an affectionate peck on the lips.

Might be a useful ice-breaker anyway.