Re: Customs in the different countries
I don't kiss anyone as a greeting and if I don't know you, you aren't getting a hug either. Call me cold or whatever, but that is just too personal for me. I will shake hands though. If I get to know you a bit, then a hug or kiss may be warranted upon a greeting, but other then that... no touchie please.
I have been in the awkward situation of being hugged and kissed by a stranger and though I didn't take offense to it, I didn't exactly welcome the gesture. I can usually tell if it is made with sincerity, so it is hard for me to really be offended by it.
To each their own I guess. As for people in NYC being kissers, all of my friends in NY aren't big kissers. I imagine it depends on your circle though. If your family or area you live in tends to be oriented towards a certain ethnicity, then I can easily see this happening.
In my family/friend circle gestures like that are reserved for good friends and family. I have no problem hugging a dojo-mate if they passed an exam (if I have known them for any length at all).