LUXEMBOURG-VILLE — An expat who has rejected the Luxembourgish custom of giving three kisses to female acquaintances will be allowed to give three alternating handshakes instead, a court has ruled.
The decision was handed down on Tuesday by a three-judge panel from the Court of Etiquette. The court was obliged to rule on the matter after Andrew Cullen’s girlfriend and others filed a complaint against him earlier this year.
“This is really great news for me because I never mastered the art of the cheek kiss,” explained a relieved Cullen, whose company transferred him from Seattle to Luxembourg two years ago. “The first few times I tried, I actually gave a real kiss on the cheek, leaving a trail of saliva, which obviously disgusted the women and left me deeply ashamed.”
“Even when I learned how to merely kiss the air while touching cheeks, I couldn’t figure out how to make the kissy noise without sounding like I was choking on a mouthful of peanut butter,” he said.
Knowing that he was bound to fail and make otherwise normal encounters unpleasant, in December Cullen decided to never again participate in a cheek kiss. Any attempt to lure him into a cheek kiss, he says, was met with a defiant handshake.
“But I admit that a single handshake is a bit formal, so after a while I started offering three alternating handshakes, left, right, left,” he said. “Which I suppose looked really funny at first, and I know that it infuriated my girlfriend, but to me it feels perfectly natural.”
When pleas for him to put an end to his odd behavior went repeatedly ignored, he found himself being served a writ of summons to appear before the court that handles all disputes relating to customs and the rules of social interactions.
Cullen’s girlfriend Megan Puckett, a fellow North American — yet one who easily adopted the custom of cheek kisses when she moved here in 2009 — is one of a dozen people who filed the complaint against him, hoping to compel him to “stop being such a weirdo,” she says.
However, the judges decided that no one may be compelled by peers to kiss another’s cheeks against his will, saying that the custom of touching faces while puckering one’s lips and rapidly sucking is indeed strange, and that it appears more suitable for performing seals or excited jungle orangutans than civilized humans.
The judges noted that three handshakes is not the only acceptable alternative to three kisses, and that people unwilling to clasp hands with others, for reasons of hygiene or discomfort, will have a wide range of options to greet and bid farewell.
“Light touches on the elbow, high-fives, or even fist bumps can be performed by those for whom a handshake is too intimate,” the judges said. “And those who view any physical contact as an intrusion will be allowed to stomp a foot, flap an arm, or simply snap their fingers.”
“But no matter which gesture is performed, there’s one thing that’s non-negotiable, and that is that the gesture must be done three times in an alternating left-right-left fashion,” he added. “As per Luxembourg’s social code.”