Musement takes a look at what public displays of affection are appropriate and when with–not only–your beloved in various countries around the world.
There are two types of people in this world: extravagant cuddlers and unflappable introverts. If you’re dating one of the former, they’ll jump into your arms when they see you, hug you and kiss you, and won’t miss any opportunity to show you how much they love you with every kind of extravagant display. The latter, however, can’t stand any intrusion into their personal space, even by the people they love, and they will rarely be willing to give you some extraordinary show of affection in public—such as a kiss on the cheek.
Whichever type you are, it’s good to know that when it comes to public displays of affection, it’s different strokes for different folks around the world. In some places, just holding hands is supposed to give you the full measure of someone’s feelings for you, while in others, it’s considered rude to not accept hugs and kisses from people you barely know.
Here’s how you should behave in public—with your partner and others—in various countries around the world.
In Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, and generally all Buddhist countries, you should both avoid wearing revealing clothing to not offend the local sensibilities, and also avoid any physical contact in public—even the most innocent, such as holding hands while walking.
It’s the same in Nepal, where any kind of physical contact and display of affection is strictly forbidden, even holding hands. Only married couples can dare to engage in such behavior in public, and even for them, it will draw attention.
In Sri Lanka, physical contact in public is seen in such a negative light that some couples use large umbrellas to conceal their kisses and hugs.
In Japan where even sneezing in the street is considered rude, public displays of affection are not a common occurrence. Any kiss (even on the cheek), hug, or affectionate touch will raise eyebrows.
In Islamic countries, kisses on the cheek are the most common form of greeting between men, and it’s perfectly acceptable to walk hand in hand, or arm in arm, with a friend of the same gender—but not with your romantic partner: (heterosexual) couples are required to maintain a standard of modest behavior that doesn’t allow any kind of physical contact in public places. Homosexuality, on the other hand, is not even considered within the realm of possibility, so if two persons of the same sex are seen holding hands, they are automatically categorized as friends.
In the big cities of India, no one will be shocked to see couples kissing in the street. However, in rural areas and in the smaller cities, no physical contact between the opposite sexes is allowed…not even during the marriage ceremony. It is very common, however, to see men taking a friendly walk side by side, holding each other by their little fingers.
In America, “PDAs” (Public Displays of Affection) are not prohibited, but–depending on the extent–people might chide, “Get a room”.
In European countries, on the other hand, no one thinks twice about kissing their better half in the street, on benches in public parks, at subway stops—or “against the gates of the night”, in the words of Prévert, the most French way imaginable. As you can guess, hugging or holding hands are even less of a concern.
It’s the same in Mexico, Argentina and Peru where couples kiss, hug and hold hands everywhere. In Peru, there is even a park dedicated to lovers: the Parque del Amor.