Is La bise really necessary when in France?
Les bises, les bisous, les bequest, les pouts…so many words to translate to that so very French way of greeting called ” la bise”.
The reality is if you have spent or intend to spend time in France, with French people, ” la bise” might simply be unavoidable.
I’ll never forget when my Australian husband, then young boyfriend met my family and friends for the first time, men, women, kids, neighbours, everyone wanted a piece of his cheeks! I had never really noticed before how many “bises” were flying around in a typical French day.
For foreigners, it can be confronting. Some will just find it funny and happily indulge their hosts and give in this strange custom, but for some, having such close physical contact with someone you don’t know is the ultimate awkward moment.
I have met a lot of Anglo-Saxon people who felt terribly nervous about an upcoming “bise”..should I start from the right or left cheek, should I really kiss or just air kiss, how many kisses should I do ?
The number of “bises’ will simply be determined by where in France you are. I have myself a 2 bises policy. One doesn’t feel right, 3 and more, well that is just too much!
Did you know you don’t actually kiss the cheek? It is basically just a cheek to cheek moment with a kiss sound, the smack of the lips sound is very important by the way.
Do I have to “faire la bise”?
There is no real answer to that. If you find yourself invited at a party or someone’s home, it would actually be more awkward not to ” faire la bise”. Today though, it does seem obvious not to force anyone into some physical action, and a kiss, even on the cheeks, is an intimate act to some. You just will have to explain, in your best French that you don’t like or aren’t comfortable doing ” la bise”. Maybe practise a ready-made explanation full of humour..you’ll be fine. But if you really want to be like the French and be accepted with open arms, “la bise” might be the price to pay.
There are countless funny “bise” moments on Youtube if you want a giggle and understand a little better.
Author: Alexandra Ganipeau – The French Hack