Everyone knows about the cultural tradition of kissing in France. But I find it very interesting to see how it plays out on a day to day basis and, also, from region to region. As an American living in France, it can sometimes be difficult to navigate the bise. If you meet someone for the first time, you can simply shake their hand, which is something Americans are comfortable with. But once you know someone, the bise becomes more important. But how often?? Every day? Once a week? And who?? A colleague? The neighbor’s kid?
Answer: You bise just about everyone…at every age. The one exception that I have seen is that sometimes men and adolescent males may shake hands. But, I also see men faire la bise quite often. The frequency of the bise varies. At work, I don’t see this greeting too much on a daily basis. But, after the weekend…possibly. After one of the two-week vacations, there is a lot of kissing going on in the salle des profs. When you run in to a friend or colleague at the market or in the square, you kiss. So, last weekend, we headed north to the Alps to visit friends. And would you believe it…we passed through two separate kissing zones! Yes, we kiss according to the cultural norms of the region. Allow me to explain.
In the Aude, where Narbonne is located, we give two kisses, one on each cheek. So, we left the Aude and arrived at our friend’s house in the Drôme. Wait!! Three kisses?? We got used to that for the night. My friend, Carrie, had a dinner party and we all exchanged kisses as we met her friends. So, in the Drôme we give three kisses. Then, the next morning, we headed to the Alps, where we went back to two kisses! So, in case you are totally confused about how many kisses to give, I have included a link to a map that advises us on the number of kisses required. In addition, this map is interactive and people weigh in on how many kisses they give and on which cheek they start on.