Hugging and Kissing the Serbian Way

Hugging and Kissing the Serbian Way

by Magdalena Petrović Jelić


Should you hug and kiss or only shake hands in Serbia?  Do Serbs kiss three times on the cheek? When is it that they do it, and when they don’t? 

In this video I will tell you about 10 things you can do when meeting people in Serbia. When to kiss, how many times and how. 


Learn to hug and kiss like a Serb! 


ATTENTION: This is a slow Serbian video!

If you’re learning the language, use it as a listening exercise. Otherwise, just appreciate the sound of the Serbian language and focus on reading the English translation bellow the video.


Scroll down to read the English translation.

Do Serbs kiss three times?

English translation:


We will start from the most distant greeting and go all the way to the most intimate greeting.


The most distant greeting is a nod (I’m nodding my head now), then there’s a smile (I’m smiling now), then waving (I’m waving my hand now), then a handshake (we’re shaking hands), then we pat on the back, a hug (we’re hugging), then a kiss, then three kisses, then we have a smack (a friendly kiss, pusa or kiss), and finally the French kiss, the most intimate kiss.


Nodding – klimanje glavom

When we’re nodding, that’s the most distant greeting. Instead of saying “good afternoon” or “good morning”,

when all we want is to mumble “dobro jutro”, “bro jutro”, then we just nod and that’s it.

We’re keeping our distance.



A nod with a smile – klimanje glavom i osmeh

With a smile, that means that we’re glad to see someone, we’re happy to see them, we’re happy and there’s a smile: “Good day!” “Hello!” “Hi!”


Waving – mahanje

Then, we can wave. Ok? When we wave, the person is usually far away. When they are on the other side of the street, then we wave: “Ćao!” “Zdravo!” That’s informal. Ok?

If we’re saying to someone “Good afternoon, sir”, then we won’t wave. Then we’ll nod.


Handshake – rukovanje 

When we’re meeting someone, then we’ll shake hands, if it’s formal, ok? Formally, we shake hands: “Good after noon, how are you?”

And for farewell, we will also shake hands. When we’re leaving, we’re shaking hands. “Doviđenja, prijatno”, we shake hands and leave.


Pat on the back – tapšanje po ramenu

When we’re meeting our friends, men usually pat on each other’s back. Tap-tap-tap, they pat on the back.

Or they just hit once on the back: “What’s up, brother?” “What’s up, friend?”

They just hit you on the back like this.


Hug – zagrljaj 

Female friends, as well as male friends, hug each other. In Serbia, men also hug sometimes.

If they are close friends, then they will hug. Girls as well, relatives as well.

We hug a lot in Serbia.


A kiss – poljubac

With a hug, when huging, we usually also kiss. How and how many times?



Young people normally kiss only once.

That’s modern Serbian urban culture. Modern Serbian urban culture is that the young kiss only once.

The girls often kiss the air beside a cheek, the air beside a cheek, because they often have lipstick on and they do not want to leave trace. That’s why they kiss the air.


When the Serbs kiss three times

(To kiss) three times, it’s an old Serbian custom to kiss three times. That’s a little bit formal.

If we’re meeting our friend’s parents, we will usually shake hands when introducing ourselves. I say “I’m Magdalena, nice to meet you” and we shake hands.

If you’re meeting your partner’s parents, they will probably want to kiss you three times. Not always, but that’s most often the case. Because you’re a part of the family. Ok?

Since you’re a part of the family, they will pull you closer to them and kiss you three times.



Friends, young people, kiss only once and that’s called “cmok”“Cmok” is an onomatopoeia, that’s the sound, mwah, cmok. That’s why it’s called “cmok”.

Also, for that kind of a kiss we use the German word “pusa” or the English word “kiss”, ok?

And we have two verbs, we have the verb cmoknuti, mwah, and kisnuti, which also means mwah.

Come here, let me give you a kiss.

Dođi da te cmoknem, dođi da te kisnem, dođi da te poljubim.


French kiss – francuski poljubac

Finally, and maybe the most beautiful, the most intimate, there’s the French kiss.

Or, in slang we say “žvaka” (chewing gum). Ok? 

“Žvaka” is also that, like a candy, Orbit, that we put in our mouth and chew and we can blow a baloon. That’s “žvaka” (chewing gum). The same word we use for the French kiss.

French kiss or “žvaka” means that two people kiss and use their tongues while doing that.





So, let’s answer the questions from the beginning.



When you’re meeting your friend’s parents for the first time, shake hands and introduce yourself, say sour name: “I’m Magdalena, nice to meet you”, ok?



The second question: when you’re meeting your partner’s friends, also shake hands and say your name: “I’m Magdalena, nice to meet you”. 

Do not kiss them. That would be strange, because you don’t know each other yet.



The third question: when you’re meeting your partner’s parents, you start by shaking hands, and they will pull you, if they want, and kiss three times. All right?

Traditionally, the Serbs kiss three times.




If you have any other questions, if you have comments, about interesting situations that you had, write about it below the video.

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