Kissing is taking over from handshaking, although men kissing one another is still unusual (see below). However, kissing is not appropriate in many professional situations. On the whole it should only be used among friends, not at first meeting.
Social kissing varies according to the age of the people involved. Older people may not want to be kissed at all and even if they do not mind they often only expect one kiss. The double kiss, which is usually the man kissing the woman’s right cheek first, is the norm among younger people.
An air kiss, with no contact at all, may seem rude or impersonal, but at least it is not intrusive – it is simply a social kiss, not a sign of affection to a loved one. A very slight contact is best, and no sound effects are needed.
Women routinely kiss other women and men without it denoting anything more than a social interaction. Some men now kiss socially, but kissing is rare amongst the older generation (older men may find it embarrassing), within more traditional professions or in very rural areas. However, fathers often kiss their sons, even their adult sons (for example, the Prince of Wales) and the days of a manly handshake when seeing the 8-year-old off to prep school are over.
If you really object to being kissed by people you hardly know then you may extend a straight arm and offer to shake hands, which should give a clear message. Do not force kisses on people who do extend a hand as a sign.
Hand-kissing, or rather a man bowing over the hand of a married woman, never a young girl, and not quite touching it with his lips, has never really caught on in Britain. It looks affected unless you come from a culture where men are brought up to hand-kiss.