Photo by henri meilhac

Adam Navis and Liz Waid tell about an act that many people like. But when you think about it, it is a little gross! What is a kiss and why do people do it?

Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Adam Navis.

Voice 2

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

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Voice 1  

As humans, we do some strange things. We jump out of airplanes. We make enough bombs to blow up the whole world. We invent sports and then spend much of our lives playing or watching them. We cry during sad films even though we know the actors are not really dying. But it can be the small, common things humans do that are really the most strange.

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For example, two people are in love. They like to spend time together. They feel good when they are together. They share many interests. They have similar goals for the future. But here is the strange thing. One way they show each other love is to take their mouths and press them together. They may even put their tongues into each other’s mouth! They may even do this for a long time. Today’s Spotlight is on kissing!

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What is a kiss? Have you ever thought about it? Have you thought about all the different kisses you might give, or someone might give you?

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There are three main kinds of kisses. First, there are kisses between parents and children. Kisses for children should be short, non-sexual, and on appropriate places like heads and hands. These kisses help children understand they are special and loved.

woman and son affection
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon
Voice 1

Second, there are kisses of greeting. These kinds of kisses are different from country to country. They are governed by the rules of that culture. For example, in Argentina, when two people meet, they give each other a kiss on the right side of the face — the cheek. But it is usually not a real kiss. The cheeks touch and they make a small kissing sound. No lips or mouths touch at all.

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In some places of Italy, people greet with not one, but two cheek kisses. They first kiss one side. Then they kiss the other side. In the Netherlands, people kiss three times: first one side, then the other, then back to the first side. And some places have even more complex rules about greeting kisses. People in many countries in the Middle East greet each other with a kiss. But this is not appropriate between everyone. An unmarried man and unmarried woman should not kiss. So what do you do if you are travelling and don’t know what to do? A good rule is: if you do not know what to do, do not kiss.

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But there is one more kind of kiss. And it is far more complex than the first two. The third kind of kiss is the romantic kiss. But what is romantic about it? Noam Shpancer teaches psychology at Otterbein University. In Psychology Today, he wrote,

Woman and man kissing
Photo by AndriyKo Podilnyk
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“One must admit that kissing is more than a bit strange. Why would the exchange of mouth fluids and left over pieces of food be a good thing, even a sign of passionate love? The romantic kiss is very common. So it must play an important part in the dance of human sexuality. But what exactly is that part?”

Voice 2  

Scientists do not agree about why people kiss when they are in love. But there are many ideas. The first idea is that kissing helps us understand other people in a chemical way. When we kiss someone we get close to them. We smell their body and their breath. We taste their mouth. We feel their face. The fluids in their mouth carry chemical signals that may communicate to our brain if they are a good mate.

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Most animals do not kiss. But they are much better at smelling things than humans. Humans need to be much closer to each other to smell. Melissa Hogenboom wrote for,

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“Humans have a terrible sense of smell. We learn a lot from getting close. Smell is not the only way we measure someone as a mate. But studies have shown that smell is an important part in choosing a mate.”

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When we kiss another person, we bring them close to us. We show them that we trust them. We accept any sickness they may have. A kiss creates closeness between people. Shpancer explains this.

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“Kissing appears to have two main uses. In the short-term, the kiss is more sexual. It serves as a tool for choosing a good sexual partner. In the long-term the kiss expresses a connection between people. It is a way to keep and build feelings of closeness in the relationship.”

Voice 1  

But not everyone likes kissing. For some people, this is a personal choice. Some people do not like to be touched. They do not like the idea of sharing mouth fluids with another person. There are also general differences between men and women. Men may think kissing should lead to sex. Women are more likely to think kissing is a way to connect with another person.

Voice 2  

Kissing is not part of every culture. If you watch films and television, it is easy to believe that romantic kissing is part of life everywhere in the world. But a study published in American Anthropologist shows that kissing is not as common as people may believe. Lindsey Bever wrote about this study for The Washington Post. She wrote,

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“Researchers at the University of Nevada and Indiana University found fewer than half of the world’s cultures kiss in a romantic way. Many cultures do consider kissing to be a romantic or sexual act. But, other cultures have called kissing ‘gross’, something to make them sick. They ask why anyone would ‘share their dinner’.”

Voice 1  

A kiss means different things to different people. It could be something that is strange and unwelcome. It could mean, “Hello, nice to meet you”. Or it could mean, “I love you and want to be with you forever”. But at its most simple, kissing is just one way that some people express their love.

man kissing woman's forehead
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon
Voice 2  

What do you think about kissing? Is kissing part of your culture? Tell us what you think. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at You can also comment on Facebook at

Voice 1  

The writer of this program was Adam Navis. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, ‘What is a Kiss?’

Voice 2  

Look for our free official app in the Google Play Store and in iTunes. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


Is kissing common in your culture? How does your culture use kissing? Write your answer in the comments below.

Join the discussion

  • Kissing in public is normal in my country, you can kiss your girlfriend or your boyfriend in the mouth even if your not yet married. Kissing is a way that you are expressing love from someone.

  • My people are kissing in cheek it’s mean “welcome” to people thay love but kiss in maoth only with your whife or haspiend, thanks fro perfect program

  • I’m from Vietnam. It’s never common to kiss someone as a greeting in my culture. We just kiss a man or a woman who we love and want to be with for long.

  • In my country Vietnam, kissing is not so common. My country’s kissing culture is dedicated to showing love: Two people in love, or between people close to each other. For two strangers falling in love, who want to spend most of their time together, they express their love by long and deep kisses using their mouths and tongues. As for the kiss between people who have a close relationship such as parents, children and grandparents, usually they will kiss places on the face such as cheeks, forehead, chin or in some cases will kiss the hand, etc. to show their love for the person being kissed. In our country, kissing is not used to greet or communicate for the first time.

  • In my country, a kiss is given when a person want to convey their feelings to other people. It may be between parents and their children, or between a woman and her husband, or between individuals who are extremely close. Kisses mean a lot, we give a kiss to appease, express love or give it with a goodbye. When old friends re-unite, they are not rewarded with a quick kiss. I believe that kisses are really sacerd and that they cannot be given randomly. With the exception of my family, boyfriend, and lovely kids, I have never kissed anybody else in my life. In my nation, this is considered normal and culturally acceptable. Kisses are considerably more common in western nations since they are much simpler to deliver. It is also one of the most distinctive aspects of their culture.

  • In my culture we kiss each other on one side of cheeks like Argentina, but romantic kiss is not common in our culture, It’s just in marriage

  • Kissing is usually a gesture of affection and two lips kissing together is a symbol of love. Kissing in love is a common human action.

  • My country don’t kiss when greeting. Kissing is usually seen of couples. Kisses between parents and children are not much. It depends on personality and culture of each family. My parents don’t often kiss me when i was an adult.

  • I am from middle east , jordan
    In my hummanity , we learn kiss us in a childhood
    We kiss our friends and brothers and parents
    We kiss each other when we spend some time away and meet again
    Also we kiss when we get married

  • Yes it is common in my Arabic culture. But it’s different way, I think it’s like Argentina.
    But there is something an important you should know, Men do not kiss women in public, even if they are married.

  • yes kissing is common in my culture but in my culture use kissing between parents and sons or among family or among spouses.

  • Actually kissing in our culture is not welcome cuz in Muslim societies you can not kiss a woman that you didn’t marry and you can not kiss a woman in front of the people cuz that’s forbidden in our religion and we are proud of this

  • Yes , its a part of my culture. In greeting to welcome other people we kiss on cheeks.first in right side and tow to left side.But the romantic kiss just when we married we make it.

  • We are islamic people and our religion do not allow us those things that happen between unmaried man and unmaried woman but if they actually get married our religion allow them everything that makes them feeling good in their relationship.
    So we singles we don’t do that, but if we married we will do everything that making us feel good in relationship.
    So keep your feelings and when you marry appear them to your wife.

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