German etiquette group targets workplace kissing

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French President Nicholas Sarkozy kisses his German counterpart Angela Merkel in greeting on 20 July 2011
Image caption,
A kiss on the cheek is common in France, but will it become a thing of the past in German workplaces?

A society in Germany which advises on etiquette and social behaviour has called for kissing to be banned in the workplace.

The Knigge Society says the practice of greeting colleagues and business partners with a kiss on the cheek is uncomfortable for many Germans.

The society's chairman, Hans-Michael Klein, says he has received concerned emails from workers on the issue.

He advises people in the workplace to stick to the traditional handshake.

Speaking to the BBC, he admitted it would be impossible to ban kissing in the workplace outright.

"But we have to protect people who don't want to be kissed," Mr Klein added.

"So we are suggesting that if people don't mind it, they announce it with a little paper message placed on their desk."

Mr Klein said he had received 50 emails this year alone on the rise of kissing on the cheek - sometimes both cheeks - as a greeting at work.

"People say this is not typical German behaviour," he said.

"It has come from places like Italy, France and South America, and belongs in a specific cultural context. We don't like it, they say."

The society held a meeting on the issue, and carried out a survey of people both on the street and at their seminars, he said.

"Most people said they didn't like it. They feel there is somehow an erotic aspect to it - a form of body contact which can be used by men to get close to a woman."

He said there is, in Europe, a "social distance zone" of 60cm (23in) which should be observed.

The Knigge Society, named after a German guide to good manners, is based in a castle 80km (50 miles) from Dortmund in western Germany.

It has reportedly previously ruled on the correct way to end a relationship via text message, and how to deal with a runny nose in public.

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