Écrit par / Written by: Anthony Lucas
Dernière révision / Last revision: Tuesday 5 December 2023
In France, la bise is a way of saying hello and/or goodbye. This kiss consists of giving (and receiving at the same time) 2, 3, 4 or even 5 kisses on the cheeks.
La bise is not systematically given to every person you meet. If you go to buy your baguette at the boulangerie, you won’t kiss the baker or all the customers present. No, la bise is reserved for friends and family.
This French greeting kiss is not exclusive to women. Of course, two female friends will kiss each other, but so will a man and a woman who are good friends, and even 2 male friends.
This English comedian based in Paris is Paul Taylor. He revealed himself to French audiences with this online video La Bise. The video, which was intended as a promotion for an English-language comedy evening in Paris, was posted online on 1 January 2016 and has over 3 million views. Filmed in a single sequence shot, La Bise pokes fun at this French tradition and will serve as a model for future episodes of What the Fuck France.
When you fais la bise, your lips don’t really kiss the other person’s cheeks. In fact, your cheeks make contact and at the same time you give a kiss in the air, with or without the sound of a kiss (everyone has developed their own way of faire la bise 😽).
Good question! The most popular way to give the French greeting kiss is to present the right cheek. But it’s not an absolute rule.
How many greeting kisses you should give depends mainly on where you are in France.
As you can see on the map opposite, 2 kisses should be enough most of the time 😅
You should know that even the French don’t always know how their bise is going to go, because it’s a team effort and you don’t always know your team-mate! Honestly, stop worrying and go with the flow. Observe, imitate, adapt 😉
La bise is not the only way to greet someone in France. Adopting the right behaviour is a science as it depends on many factors:
Roughly speaking, as I mentioned before, la bise is done with friends and family. Anyway, if you find yourself in a situation where you don’t know what to do, it’s best to wait and see what the other person does, then you adapt.
Here are the other options to greet in France:
Shaking hands is a good way of avoiding getting too close. Of course there is contact, but it’s with the hands, so a certain distance is maintained.
It is always possible to stay away from the other person and avoid all contact. To avoid being completely rude, it’s best to at least say “bonjour“ and just nod.
Personally, I love hugging because it shows real closeness and human warmth through the contact of the two bodies. But it’s clearly not a French habit to hug each other. In fact, it’s extremely rare. Hugs are usually reserved for couples.
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