It’s second nature for the French to greet and take leave of family, friends, colleagues and even complete strangers with cheek-y kisses. They grow up with it. It’s as natural as breathing…or as waving a hand from a respectable distance and saying ‘hi’ in the UK.

Frog

We’ve given you a vague set of ‘kissing rules’ in the past but here they are again

♡ Women kiss women (only ones they already have a friendly relationship with of course. Don’t go kissing the lady on reception at the opticians)

♡ Men kiss women but shake hands with men (unless they are family or very close friends in which case men kiss men)

♡ Children kiss everybody, including complete strangers.

♡ The number of kisses varies from region to region, town to town, and even person to person, so don’t worry, take your lead from the ‘kissee’.

♡ Most people kiss from right to left (ie your right cheek to their right cheek) Some people just touch cheek to cheek and ‘air kiss’, others will kiss properly on the cheek.

♡ If the ‘kissee’ is rather cute, make up your own rules!

blowing-you-kisses

Of course, unless you’re looking for a few days off school or work and want to catch something infectious, there are also quite a few reasons NOT to kiss hello or goodbye

♡ They’re sweaty
♡ You’re sweaty
♡ They smell
♡ You smell
They have dog breath
♡ You have dog breath
♡ They are covered in cream or something unidentifiable or put-offish
♡ They look ill
♡ They are snuffly or snotty
♡ You hardly know them
♡ The room is quite full and if you kiss one, you will probably have to kiss them all.
♡ You don’t actually like them

So if you just shake hands when you should have kissed, will that seem standoffish, over formal, down right unfriendly? Will you cause offense if you DON’T pucker up?

Here’s what the French have to say….

Olivier, Maureillas
Ne pas faire la bise? Un Français ne ferait pas ça, ou rarement. En général, la plupart des gens qui sont malades diraient “Je ne fais pas la bise parce que…” Par contre, un anglais qui fait la bise, c’est maladroit, tu le reconnais tout de suite, étant donné que ce n’est pas un geste naturel chez les anglais, donc je ne serais pas insulté. Chez un français que je connais, je trouverais ça bizarre.

Camille, Rennes
Les français font la bise pour dire bonjour, au revoir, merci, enchanté… C’est une habitude, question d’éducation.
En revanche se vexer si quelqu’un ne fait pas la bise est peut-être un peu exagéré car dans certains cas, comme par exemple arriver dans un lieu rempli de personnes, le temps de dire bonjour il est l’heure de dire au revoir !

USEFUL VOCABULARY

faire la bise – to kiss hello/goodbye
la plupart – most
diraient – would say
Par contre – On the other hand
maladroit – awkward
étant donné – given that..
enchanté… – pleased to meet you
en revanche – On the other hand
se vexer – to get cross
un lieu – a place
rempli – full
le temps – the time (it takes)
il est l’heure – it’s time

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