I have an Asian background, and I live in Australia. My husband is European, and at family gatherings, his family members tend to greet me with a hug and a kiss on the cheek, which makes me uncomfortable, but I have learned is customary in some European cultures. I don't kiss them on the cheek in return.

It's hard to describe why it makes me uncomfortable, but my parents and siblings never used physical signs of affection growing up, so part if it is that it's something I'm not used to. I also think kissing is something for people you are really affectionate towards, and while I like my extended family, I don't feel that they are in that category.

I have tried simply standing back and greeting them with a wave, but they will always come close and do the hug+kiss.

Is there a way to explain that this makes me uncomfortable without insulting them?

This may be similar to the question "How to avoid having to kiss my mother on the cheek without offending her", but in my case, it's not my blood relatives, and it's mostly the extended family that do it (my mother-in-law and father-in-law have picked up that it makes me uncomfortable). I see these relatives maybe once a year at most.


2 Answers 2


I am Chinese, and I dislike this practice as well. I don't know if this will work for you, but I sometimes hold out my hand for a handshake, this has 2 effects: It creates a barrier and extends a common method of greeting.

I will be honest it doesn't always work, but it is better than nothing and has worked for me sometimes.

  • 7
    One possible problem with this choice is that it can come across as a rejection of friendliness and affection. If they're reasonably perceptive, it will make the undesired behavior stop, but won't communicate the correct reason. If these are people who you want to like you, I'd caution against this approach.
    – Deolater
    Aug 7, 2017 at 21:05
  • 1
    @Deolater : agreed. OP already went through the process of greetings with hugs & kisses, so it will be perceived as a weird backup. Shaking hands works fine from the beginning, at the first meeting.
    – OldPadawan
    Aug 7, 2017 at 21:24

they tend to greet me with a hug and a kiss on the cheek [...] I don't kiss them on the cheek in return. [...] My mother-in-law and father-in-law have picked up.

And they keep doing that. That means they like you, and may not understand what it means to you. They see that you behave differently by not hugging/kissing back. They don't feel hurt, but want to show you how much they care about you being part of the (extended) family. Nice, but clumsy...

That being said, if they like you, they'll most probably understand your point of view and culture. As long as they know about it, which doesn't seem to be the actual case.

My advice: talk to your husband and his parents. Open your heart and share your thoughts and feelings. Explain about your culture and family background. Maybe they can, before you come in for the next gathering, and in a very unformal manner, nicely inform them about what it means to you, and how uncomfortable you feel about hugs-and-kisses.

  • Still, this seems like a very self-centered approach. If they stop the hug and kiss thing, then they are going against their cultural values, right?
    – user3169
    Aug 7, 2017 at 6:37
  • Yes, definitely, it can be seen that way. But OP asked for an alternative solution that may help her not XOX. Therefore, she plans on NOT doing it, without hurting anyone. But doing so, OP has to ask others to respect what she feels. I agree that it's tricky, and one of them has to give up on this. Either she gives up, or they'll have to... EDIT: in many countries I know, it's not "cultural values", but "way of doing" though :)
    – OldPadawan
    Aug 7, 2017 at 6:43
  • 9
    @user3169 What about OP's cultural values and physical autonomy? Aug 29, 2017 at 10:57
  • 2
    @user3169 If we were talking about whether or not they were allowed to put up decorations for a particular holiday, that would be one thing. But they're touching the OP without consent. Cultural practice does not make that OK, and it wouldn't matter even if the OP were European where that sort of thing is normal. Personal respect requires respecting the person.
    – Ed Grimm
    Mar 14, 2019 at 23:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.