to kiss [verb] [zoende, gezoend]

There’s another verb in Dutch that also translates to “to kiss”,
which is “kussen”. There’s a slight difference between the two, though
very subtle. “Zoenen” is more informally used, and “kussen” in a more
formal, theatrical way. Two characters in a play of Shakespeare would
engage in “kussen”, where a guy and girl on the dancefloor would engage
in “zoenen”. The respective nouns “zoen” en “kus” both translate to “kiss”.When ending written communication, it would be more common to end with
“kusjes” (“little kisses”) than with “zoentjes” which is never used.
However one can end with “dikke zoen” (“fat kiss”) and with “dikke kus”
between close friends (not between men though). A single “kus” would be
more intimate. The usage of the x’s is also very common (the Dutch
don’t do the o’s for hugs)).

– “Zullen we zoenen?”
(“Shall we kiss?”)

– “Heb je zin om te zoenen?”
(“Do you feel like kissing?” or “Do you want to kiss?”)

– “Sorry, maar ik zoen niet in het openbaar!”)
(“I’m sorry, but I don’t kiss in public!”)

– “Het verliefde paartje stond aan de bar te zoenen.”
(“The amorous couple was kissing at the bar.”)

– “Bij het afscheid gaf Frank zijn schoonmoeder drie zoenen op de wang.”
(“When he left, Frank gave his mother in law three kisses on the cheek.” Literally: “At the departure, …”)

– “De jonge moeder gaf haar kind een dikke smakzoen.”
(“The young mother gave her child a big smacking kiss.” From the verb “smakken”: to smack (one’s lips).)
Related words:
– “Tongzoenen”: French kissing.
– “Klapzoen”: smacking kiss, from the verb “klappen”: to clap.
– “Negerzoen”: marshmellow on biscuit base covered in chocolate. This
word is found polically incorrect by some, since it literally
translates to “negro’s kiss”. However, a negative connotation is absent
in Dutch.
Extra: on the Dutch kissing policy
With greeting and leaving, Dutch people
kiss good friends and relatives on the cheek. And when they do it, they give three kisses, usually starting on the left cheek (as seen from the initiator’s point of  view).
It is sometimes difficult to decide whether or not you should kiss
people on the cheek if you don’t know them very well. There are no real
rules and this often leads to awkward situations, where one initiates
the kisses and the other holds back.
If you wonder whether or not it would be appropriate to kiss people on
the cheek, well, if you don’t know the person, you should not kiss. If
you however have had a mutually pleasant social interaction you can exchange
3 kisses when saying goodbye.
In general if you don’t want to kiss, keep a distance and only extend the hand. This usually works.Some people in the Netherlands are opposed to the 3 kisses on the
cheeks. They either don’t want it at all, or believe that 1 or 2 is
enough (there’s even this guy who created badges that you can wear that
express your kissing policy).
Some people have the deal that they kiss good friends only once, which paradoxically is then more intimate then 3 kisses.Men kissing each other on the cheek is very uncommon, however women kissing each other on the cheek is very common.

6 thoughts on “Zoenen

  1. Last week when I did my usual routine in the supermarket, I went to look for “negerzoenen”, inspired by this DWOTD (see ‘Related words’ above). It turns out the public debate on the political incorrectness of the term has led the producer (“Buys”) to remove “neger” and change the name into just “zoenen”. There is even a website: http://www.buyszoenen.nl

  2. I will never understand this costom, It seems to change everytime I meet my dutch friends. Are there no rules of how many according to how well you know them?
    And are there any rules on kissing on the mouth?

  3. Hi Lisa, well, it can be confusing even for Dutch people! In general one applies the 3 kisses rule as described in the post, but if friends see each other on a very frequent basis, they might skip the kissing, since it then becomes tedious 🙂
    Also, very good friends that see each other frequently might exchange one kiss. Just two kisses is rare I would say.
    Sometimes Dutch people get confused about the number of kisses when kissing a non-Dutch person.
    At times Dutch people themselves don’t know what to do, for example when they meet people they frequently interact with on a non-social basis – for example co-workers – in a social setting. Do you then exchange kisses or not?
    I have heard of Dutch people kissing on the mouth when greeting but I would say that is uncommon. I think it would be considered intimate by most so the safest approach is not to do it 🙂

  4. I have hear of Dutch people kissing on the mouth when greeting.
    On the whole subject; in social life; don’t kiss when you first meet someone. Kiss when you say goodbye.
    Professionally; never kiss.
    meeting co-workers in a social setting; kiss.

  5. Okay, thank you. I’ve got a friend who kissed me on the mouth and said it was a typical dutch greeting, so I just want to find out:p

  6. I talked to some friends over the weekend and apparantly the kiss on the mouth does happen in some of the more artistic, “free-thinkers” environments…

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