Public displays of affection are not commonly seen or even commonly accepted in Thailand, as well as other Asian countries. Other customs have developed as a result. A very noteworthy and loving way of saying “hello” with body language is what Thai people call the “sniff kiss.” The first time I encountered a sniff kiss in Thailand was when my neighbors met my children and their first move was to smell their cheeks, sometimes their hair or their necks. The shop owner, the fruit market seller, the coffee vendor, all of them sniffed my kids almost every day until my kids started running away from it.
How do you Sniff Kiss?
The basic physical act of a sniff kiss is to put your face close to the other person’s cheek, neck or hair and sniff them with your mouth closed. Sniff kisses can have different connotations depending on who gives one to whom. A sniff kiss from an adult to a child is a sign of affection and happiness. A child wouldn’t give a sniff kiss to anyone that isn’t a parent or a close relative. Grown adults give children sniff kisses along with smiles and shoulder squeezes and plenty of pleasant comments like “how cute”, “so beautiful” and likewise.
Another type of sniff kiss is one that lovers give each other. It is obviously much more romantic in manner than a sniff kiss to a child. You will never see a Thai couple kissing or embracing in the street, that kind of affection is kept for behind closed doors. Overly romantic sniff kisses in public are also not very common since they make your skin tingle and brain water.
Public Displays of Affection
Thai television and cinema will hardly ever show a western style kiss, only sniff kisses and innocent ones at that. The Thai people are very conservative when it comes to affection. They are also very keen on cleanliness. The act of sniffing each other as a sign of affection is a way of making sure your loved one is clean. It is a way of showing how much you appreciate that from them. Thais not only take two or three showers or washes (with pots and buckets) a day but also cover their bodies in powders or creams to always smell fresh. Thailand smells of clean people, it is no surprise they enjoy sniffing each other!
Author: Orana from Crazy Little Family Adventure.
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