Historians trace the costume of kissing on the cheeks to the French Revolution when it was used to show solidarity. Since then, the French made greeting into an art form. Depending on location and circumstance, they might kiss twice, thrice, four times, or not at all.
The Portuguese are quite formal, but greeting norms are relatively simple. Men greet each other by shaking hands. Women greet man or other women with two kisses, the first on the right cheek and the second on the left.
There is, however, one tricky exception: in Lisbon close friends kiss only once, on the right cheek. So, as you start making friends in Portugal, you might go through a period of hesitation: should I greet them with one or two kisses? It’s a price well worth paying for the joy of having Portuguese friends.
Drawing by Ana Lebasi, ink on paper, 2013.