Faire La Bise (The first of many posts for my French Civilization and Culture class.)

6 Sep

Coming to France, I knew all about kissing friends on the cheek. I had no problem with it. Actually, I was even beginning to love the idea! I’ve never been really touchy-feely with friends, and the thought that friends are so close in France was really eye-opening for me. I had the chance to open up a bit more, and I was ready to embrace it. I could faire la bise like it came naturally to me after only a few days in Paris…until one particular experience, that is.

I had made close friends with a small group. Each time I hung out with them, I’d meet a few more who were part of their group too. Finally it came to part ways one evening after meeting two new girls who were extremely enjoyable to be around. As I went in to faire la bise, like I had become accustomed to doing, they did the same. One kiss, two kisses… But it didn’t stop there! They went back to my left cheek, as if we were starting all over again. I pulled back with a big, “What’s going on here?!” They didn’t understand why I was so surprised. “You’re supposed to do four kisses,” they said. To which I replied while slightly blushing, “I’ve never heard of this…” So I did it anyways. You can be sure that I asked them afterwards why they do so many, to which they couldn’t really give me an answer. They didn’t know. I didn’t know. I just decided to assume that they thought I was really great until I had the chance to ask in one of my classes what was up with those four kisses. Could we do six? Could we do eight? Where is that line drawn?

It was later explained to me that the French do a different number of kisses based on the region from which the come. Four usually comes from the south of France, while it can vary anywhere between two and four. Some people even do three, which I feel would be slightly uneven, but nothing unimaginable. Six or more, now that’s excessive! Plus, if you think about American guys and all the variations of handshakes that you see around the United States, faire la bise doesn’t seem quite as bizarre. Honestly, if we can’t keep up with the simple act of kissing the cheeks of people we enjoy being around (without even actually kissing them, but rather the air near them), how do we expect foreigners to come to the United States and understand with who, when, and how to shake hands?

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2 Responses to “Faire La Bise (The first of many posts for my French Civilization and Culture class.)”

  1. Emily September 7, 2012 at 3:39 am #

    How funny…whenever we used to joke around and do that we did four!!!!

    • chasingparis September 7, 2012 at 11:52 am #

      We must have been from the south of France in another life!

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