vendredi 10 février 2006
Le Bise is the traditional and very common french practice of kissing on each cheek a certain number of times when greeting someone and often when saying goodbye.
When I first arrived in France, this really stressed me out. "Oh no. Here is comes. What do I do? Which direction? How many kisses? Did I knock my cheek against theirs too hard? Where the heck do I put my hands? On their arm?"
Normally it goes like this air kiss (really just touching cheeks and making a Mwah! sound) on right cheek, then swivel to the other side. Can be done while talking at the same time. Usually it is two kisses, at least here in the South. In other areas it can be three or four, but never more than that. One seems to only be acceptable when one of the cheeks is somehow not in service.
I personally think anything more than two is excessive. Mwa, swivel, mwa, swivel, mwa, swivel, mwa, swivel. There could be a world record set in this. 1000!!! bises before they got dizzy from turning their heads, their mouths got dry, and they bumped noses too often!
The best thing to do, especially if you are a man, is to let the french person initiate it. As a woman, be prepared for the do I? don't I? I used to quiz Alain before going places about this. He told me that once he was so ashamed because he shook hands with a woman!! Instead of kissing her on the cheek. As in, he was afraid that it came across that he first perceived her as being a man and shook her hand.

French men usually only do it to each other if they are close friends or family, otherwise they shake hands. But it is quite an amusing part of my day to see two teenage wanna be rapper guys kiss each other politely on the cheek.
Women do it with female friends and family, and male friends and family, and shake hands in professional situations. Except when they don't. Example- Alain introduces me to an older lady at his work. I shake hands. He tells me later that it seemed she was a little disappointed that I didn't do Le Bise. Mental note Megan- do the darn bise with everyone you are introduced to. A few days later we are over at his friend's house and the woman introduces me to her aunt and grandmother. Remembering the incident from a few days ago, I do Le Bise with each woman. I am later informed that this is very strange, that I should not have done that. The best thing I have learned, is to say something like Hello. This way, they can tell that you are a foreigner and will be more forgiving of any awful social gaffes you make.
It seems that only children and overly eager teenage boys actually lip plant on the cheek.
I miss hugging. It seems that Le Bise does not have the varied emotional levels of hugging. The We Are Too Manly to Hug So We Will Do A Quick Double Thump on the Back Hug. The Long Hug With Rocking Back and Forth. The Short Awkward Hug, etc.

There is no kiss, pause hold with cheeks pressing together, switch to other side and hold Bise. Haven't seen you since last night? Kiss, kiss. Going away to a foreign country for six months? Kiss, kiss. Just came back from said country? Kiss, kiss.

Of course, the entire process must be repeated when leaving. At a party, this can take awhile. Sometimes it is quite Assembly Line like, moving rapidly down the line of people. Other times it can be quite a chore to remember who all you have already kissed. And then, bien sûr, by the time you get done kissing everyone goodbye, it has been quite awhile since you kissed the first person goodbye, so maybe you should get them again just in case. And if you do Le Bise, then don't leave right away and talk some more, when you get ready to leave for real, you do it again.
There have been some Bise-Related Injuries. Bumped noses, brushed lips (oh so embarassing!), the Too Fast Approach and Overly Rough Landing (cheek bruising).
I guess on the whole it is something that one eventually gets used to and doesn't even think about. Not at that phase yet.

3 commentaires:

Anonyme a dit…


I love this "Le Bise" bit - funny, yet educational. I'm sure Uncle Bob and I will never get it right! Oh well, we can plead "no clue American!"

Aunt Shari

Ed/Sue Smith a dit…

Hi Megan-
Oh no I don't think I did it right!
Some of those relatives did it three or four times! I guess they really liked us! We sure liked them.

Anonyme a dit…

Megan, this is hysterical! You should submit it to the Washington Post!

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