Thursday, September 10, 2009

French Kisses

As I left off with the previous post, I noticed the students from the high school across the street typically greeted each other with a french kiss (regardless of gender combination).

Not that kind of french kiss, however.

In France, it is referred to as faire la bise (literally, "do the kiss").

I had observed it was common among adults but I didn't realize that teenagers did it also. If anything, they do it more, which I guess shouldn't be surprising.

A nice article How to Kiss Hello in France describes the etiquette(another article is here):

How to kiss: The French air kiss - ala “Mmmmwah, dahling” - is more of a stereotype than an actuality. Still, you’ll want to avoid planting your lips firmly on anyone’s cheeks unless you know the person quite well.

In general, gently touching your cheek to your recipient’s while pursing your lips and making a kissing sound does the trick. There’s no rule as to which cheek should get the initial kiss, but people often start the kissing to the right. The occasional embarrassing moment—when you’re forced to change your trajectory halfway through to avoid wayward lips—is inevitable.

How many kisses: It depends on the region, so observe the people around you and follow suit. In the southern city of Toulouse, for example, two kisses is the norm, while in some Parisian suburbs you’ll be expected to give four and in the agricultural departement of Aveyron it’s three.


My own very casual observation is that you start with each other's right cheek (that is, you each turn your head to the left) and then to the left cheek. And that's it.

The students at Lycee Lavoisier have obviously either not gotten the message from french education and health officials or are ignoring it:

French education and health officials have warned against "la bise", the cheek-to-cheek greeting most people associate with French nationals. So far, the French mainland has lost three people to swine flu.

One town mayor said: "I asked the children not to kiss anymore. I felt that the protections sought — to wash hands regularly, not throw used handkerchiefs around, and not cough any old way — had no meaning if we let the kids keep kissing."


(See also this CNN video.)

I would probably ignore the warning also.

I mean, what's a little swine flu among friends.

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