Faire la bise – a tongue in cheek look at kissing in France

Faire la bise - a tongue in cheek look at kissing in FranceThe French ‘bise’ can be slightly awkward for those who haven’t grown up with it

Hold out your hand, pucker up your lips….. and cross your fingers that the person you are being introduced to has some idea if the occasion merits a kiss or a shake!

Oh, and keep your tongue firmly behind your teeth and your mouth closed so that if you do get it wrong,  you don’t accidentally end up with your tongue rammed down their throat practicing another type of French kiss!

So are there any rules for ‘ze French keez’? Kind of… but not really, although some kind of physical greeting is usually expected.

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

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.

The number of kisses varies from region to region, town to town, and even person to person, so don’t worry about etiquette.

Most people kiss from right to left (ie your right cheek to their right cheek)

Many people just touch cheek to cheek and ‘air kiss’, others will kiss properly on the cheek.

Avoid any of this if you can get away with it during the flu season!

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

And if you do get it wrong, it can be quite a good ice breaker to start off with a good giggle!


We asked a few French friends to dish the dirt on their kissing habits!

Roland, Calce
« J’aime faire les bises,  surtout aux femmes! Ca m’arrive d’embrasser les hommes que j’aime bien et de ma famille bien sûr.

Combien? J’en fais 4 à ceux que j’aime et 2 aux autres


Nelly, Porté Puymorens (Catalane de souche)
Ca fait plaisir en famille, mais quand il y a beaucoup de monde, ça me saoule un peu ! Les hommes ont de la chance parce qu’ils peuvent serrer la main aux hommes.

Combien ?  J’en fais 2


Suzannah, Spain
On fait la bise toujours en famille et avec les amis. C’est une habitude, une marque d’affection. En Espagne on commence par la joue gauche.

Combien ? En Espagne on en fait toujours 2.

Useful vocab

(Catalan) de souche – (Catalan) born and bred

Faire la bise – kiss on cheek

Surtout – especially

Ca m’arrive – I do sometimes…..

J’en fais 4 – I give 4 (of them)

Ceux que j’aime – those who I like

Ca fait plaisir – It’s nice..

Beaucoup de monde – a lot of people

Ca me soûle (slang) – it does my head in

Serer la main – shake hands

Une habitude – habit

La joue – cheek


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