Sweet cheeks: discovering the Thai sniff kiss

Below is an article I wrote for my old blog a few years ago. Since my kids are older now I don’t see as many ‘sniff kisses’ planted on them, but I have some fond memories of the joy that was shared with this incomparable Thai gesture of love and affection.

Hawms and hugs at a school Mother’s Day event.

Hawm noi, na kha!

Since having children I hear this phrase a lot from people who meet our kids.

The rough translation is, “Let me give you a little sniff kiss, please!”

Before coming to Thailand I was unaware of this joyful little exchange, the hawm, or hawm gaem.

To give a hawm kiss is to gently press your nose against another’s cheek, then give a quick little sniff.

To show even more affection, you might give 3-4 hawms in rapid succession, or bury your nose in deep, nuzzle, and take in a longer breath. Hawm in Thai means ‘pleasant smelling’, while gaem means ‘cheek’, so this could also rightly be called a ‘sweet cheek’ kiss.

The neck, arms and belly are also ‘sweet spots’ for giving a hawm.

If you want to spread a little happiness around, do it by hawm. It’s a sensational sensory experience that kids especially respond to with great glee and giggles.

There would likely be a lot more peace in this world if we could all do a little more hawm-ing, a little less harming.

Don’t believe me?

Try it, and let me know the result!


The sniff kiss is apparently common around Southeast Asia. In this cute video, a Filipina ‘auntie’ demonstrates how to do it.