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Sealed without a kiss—the adventures of kissing in the workplace

Sealed without a kiss—the adventures of kissing in the workplace

Is placing on your desk a paper message that says you are OK with being kissed on your cheek going a tad bit too far? Then again, would such a sign have spared you many awkward moments at the workplace…

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August 14, 2011 12:53 by



The UAE working culture, especially with regards to physical contact between employees, can be confusing to an outsider. Though most places are moderate, office cultures run a vast spectrum from certain working environments in which even a man shaking the hand of a woman is frowned upon to those where the mandatory three kisses is a well practiced ritual.

Navigating between the two extremes of corporate culture is definitely a challenge; although, if you have worked in the Gulf, it is a challenged you have internalised and no longer even recognise. You pick up, unconsciously, on the small cues, contextualising it within your ever expanding lexicon of cultural understanding and presto you know when to merely smile your greeting or whether to extend the hand or throw caution to the wind and go the whole hog with three kisses.

If you are one of the more perceptive expats working in the Gulf for some time now, you know what we are talking about. But what if you don’t? Could a more direct and blunt approach to the level of personal contact in the work place be beneficial to a multicultural melting pot like the UAE?

Take for instance the words of one Knigge Society in Germany that insisted that a kiss on the cheek in the workplace is uncomfortable for many Germans. Knigge’s chairman Hans-Michael Klein, told the BBC that as he has received concerned emails from employees about the dreaded kiss on the cheek, he advises people to the trusty old handshake at the work place.

“We have to protect people who don’t want to be kissed… People say this is not typical German behaviour…So we are suggesting that if people don’t mind it, they announce it with a little paper message placed on their desk,” says Hans.

Is placing on your desk a paper message that says you are OK with being kissed on your cheek going a tad bit too far? Then again, would such a sign have spared you many awkward moments when your face is left hanging in a half-smooch leaning forward position as the recipient of your affections politely smiles back at you…?



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