My informant (18), from Lebanon, describes a greeting: “So a standard Arab greeting, is, typically in the Middle-East, you have to do three kisses on the cheek. It must be on the cheeks. It’s not allowed to be an air kiss. It can be a cheek to cheek thing.”
The informant went on to explain further implications of the gesture, saying that if not done properly, “it’s gonna be a sign of disrespect. It’s typically used as a formality. So if you do any less than 3 it’s seen as informal. It’s like you didn’t complete the transaction of greetings which is very important in Arab culture. How to greet people, how to welcome them into your home. If you are welcoming an individual into your home and they don’t give you three kisses, […] then it’s seen as they don’t respect you, they don’t hold you to a high authority, they are uncomfortable in your home. And usually this is seen throughout most Arab culture. It’s not seen as a first formal greeting, it’s mostly done between family members. But it can also be seen as a casual greeting between family members. […] Like ‘you’re welcoming me into your home, you’re feeding me, you’re entertaining me, you’re bringing a smile to my face’. And everyone must do it and even kids are taught it from a young age. It’s mostly family, but, family and close friends. The main symbol is deep loyalty to one another.”
Because the greeting is both a gesture of respect and also mostly used for family members, we might expect that family is very important in this culture, especially respect between members of the same family. It is important to maintain a level of respect within tight social circles, and to communicate this respect and appreciation of hospitality.