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French Kissing


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The local shop/ bar/ café is the centre of village life.


watch the greeting rituals. For some its four kisses (very fast precise

head movements required to ensure that the cheeks are in precisely the

right place), for others two kisses and for some just one kiss, and

then of course the more formal handshake.


as you think you have mastered who gets four kisses, who gets two etc

etc.. the rules change. As you launch the top half of your body towards

the left cheek for the kissing marathon, of someone that has been

getting four kisses for the last six months, you are presented with a

hand, so with a backward stumble you try to return the composed


A man, an acquaintance,

has just arrived, as I am paying for my baguette, for his morning

aperitif. I passed him a few moments ago as he was relieving himself by

the side of the road. Bonjour Madame, he says as he firmly grasps my hand.. I pick up my baguette in the other hand and politely say, Bonjour Monsieur….
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I always thought it was handshake if you've just met, one kiss if you are an acquaintance, two, if you are friends, three if you are good friends, four ....... well !!!

I have also noticed that some (mainly English) go for the lips on cheeks, whereas the French brush cheeks.  The theory behind the "brushing of cheeks" is so they can keep talking while maintaining the ritual.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Exactly the kisses depends of the region. But with someone you don't know, just "Bonjour Monsieur/ Madame" is perfect normal.

The shakehand is between 2 men or for job, or when you don't know what to do.

I would like to explain better but my english is so bad...

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Bonjour Audrey - can you explain in French then we may be able to comprends l'etiquette pour les bisou.

Last night I was given four kisses by the french owner of our local Auberge and I don't know him THAT well.  It is so difficult to understand.

Our English friends (and French) go for two.  However in Holland (and we have a couple of Dutch friends), it is three.  Maybe two should be normal and then if you see someone coming in for another one, just respond appropriately.


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You ladies think you have problems. I worked in France and the ex colonies for five years. Became used to a gentle brush on the hand ' cause if you shake hands with thirty ex legionaires at the start of the day you are blue by 2:00 am. Everytime I visit Paris on business I realise the American have landed.

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Always one kiss for children. Adults seem to follow a fashion around here: for a few years it was four kisses for everyone and then we were demoted (as we thought) to two, but noticed that everyone else was also exchanging two.

A rule here seems to be that if someone knows you well then they will kiss your close relatives even from their first meeting. This is good because I can enjoy watching my belle-mére cringing as she greets all the prickly local farmers.

Another rule (here) is that if you attend a family bash, everyone kisses everyone, family or not, first meeting or not.

I have never seen anyone kissing the local drunk.

Quite a lot of people seem to kiss dogs, but so far I haven't seen anyone kissing a cat.

One protocol illudes me for the moment; in what circumstances does MOH exchange kisses with our gendarme neighbour, when he is in uniform?

And then there's the twig and the holy water thing at funerals, with the 300-odd congregation staring at the Anglais to see if he'll do it right, and wondering why he is wearing a black tie and dark suit..........


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[quote user="Sc"]

Always one kiss for children. Adults seem to follow a fashion around here: for a few years it was four kisses for everyone and then we were demoted (as we thought) to two, but noticed that everyone else was also exchanging two.




Surely it depends on if you totoyer or vousvoyer?, i.e. have you already used the Tu or vous form to each other.

I agree with one kiss for children (but recieved not given) and the number of kisses depending on region of origin.

I shake hands with all other men (except when they are kissing me at new year!) and with women that I vousvoyer.

Some people accepted me and invited me to tutoyer after a few months, with others it is still Vous which I am entirely happy with, I like the ability to show respect with my greeting.

What unnerves me is the few people that insist on tutoiment from the word go, usually those that turn out to be faux amies and also strangely all of the "jeunes actifs" in my local AVF group, perhaps it is an age thing.

I would be sad if the distinction were to be lost in future generations.

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Bisou here is one on each cheek and a handshake for people you meet  the first time. Very civilised. For the children, boys and girls, it's always bisou. A little scary at first, but a wonderful tradition I think!!

When our visitors arrive from the U.K. some were surprised by the greeting, but soon got used to it. I have always thought it a shame that you don't shake hands when you meet people in the U.K. Even better when we walk into somewhere like the butchers or La Poste and everyone turns and wishes us bon jour!

I made the mistake of telling one of our English ex naval friends that velcro was the invention of 2 French guys with beards, we both have beards. Yes you're ahead of me!! Now every time we meet it's a loud bisou meeting. Well he is ex navy after all. Bloody fish heads![:D] To be fair on fish heads he's an ex penguin, Fleet Air Arm! (all flap, no fly??)[6]

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