I don’t know about elsewhere, but here in Quebec, we’re big on cheek kissing as a greeting (and then there’s the whole "Mwwwahhhh daaaaaaaaaaahling" air kissing thing, but that’s a whole other story).
We greet people with a kiss on each cheek, always starting on the right side. Pretty straightforward, non?
In your usual social situation, it pretty much goes like this: Kiss, kiss. How are you? How about a glass of wine?
Unless you’re seeing someone who doesn’t drink, in which case it becomes Kiss, kiss. How are you? How about a glass of water/juice/Perrier? at which point you have to find some way to hold up your end of a coherent conversation. Not necessarily something you want to do at the end of a busy week. But I digress.
In Europe it’s a whole different story.
First off, they start kissing on the left side. Which is wrong. Totally absolutely and incontrovertibly WRONG since it results in much embarrassment when faces collide, hopefully with no damage to teeth and noses. I now find myself muttering “left left left” every time I meet someone in Europe, resulting in raised eyebrows and supercilious looks (Europeans have the supercilious look down to an art form - I really must learn). On the other hand, sometimes I’m lucky and the person simply backs slowly away, in which case the whole kissy thing become moot.
Once the whole issue of which side to start on is out of the way, the real fun starts: How many kisses.
As I mentioned, in Quebec it’s two, which seems straightforward and logical, seeing that people have two cheeks (wherever they may be). In Paris however, sometimes it’s two, sometimes it’s four, I’ve even seen up to six. So, if you're lucky you end up with a double kisser, if not, you stop and they go on, or you figure, I might as well keep it up and they stop. How can you possibly justify more than two kisses other than just to annoy others? Finally, you get it sorted out: X does two, Y does four, Z does two… and you meet someone new and it’ll all up in the air once again…
And then you go to Belgium. In Brussels they kiss three times!!!
There should be a rule!
PS: Apparently this is how you do it in France Maybe the fact that most Parisians aren't from Paris explains the varying number of kisses from one person to another.