In modern Western culture, an Eskimo kiss is known as the act of pressing the tip of one’s nose against another’s. This act is loosely based on a traditional Inuit greeting called a kunik.
A kunik is a way of expressing affection, usually among family members and loved ones, that involves pressing the nose and upper lip against the skin (more commonly the cheeks or forehead) and breathing in, causing the loved one’s hair or skin to be suctioned against the nose and upper lip.
A frequent misconception is that the practice arose so that Inuit could kiss without their mouths freezing together in the cold surroundings. In fact, it is a non-erotic form of greeting that serves as an intimate way of greeting one another for people who, when they meet, more often than not have little except their nose and eyes exposed.
When the first explorers of the Arctic first saw this behavior they immediately called it Eskimo kissing. In its western form, this consists of two people rubbing noses together. One of the first representations of the Eskimo kiss comes from the 1922 film Nanook of the North, regarded by many to be the first real documentary or ethnographic film. It is possibly from this film that the non-Inuit/Eskimo public became aware of this practice.
Similar traits are shown in greetings of other people, such as the hongi and honi greeting used by the Māori of New Zealand and Hawaiians respectively, and by Mongolian nomads of the Gobi desert, as well as in certain Southeast Asian cultures.