As a foreigner, you’ll encounter all kinds of baffling things abroad. For me in France, la bise tops the list. These pesky French cheek kisses are the norm but as an outsider, sometimes you’ll just be confused… and rightfully so. French cheek kisses ARE confusing.
French cheek kisses: La bise explained
A few fellow expat bloggers in France have shared their take on the bise so check out Bonjour Adventure and Le Franco Phoney for their helpful tips.
First, let’s tackle the la bise meaning. La bise is a cheek kiss, what you do upon meeting and saying goodbye to a French person. The faire la bise meaning is to do cheek kisses.
If you’re not familiar with the whole French kiss on the cheek thing, here’s why la bise can be confusing:
- What side do you start on?
- How many kisses do you do?
- Who do you kiss?
- For how long?
- Every time you see them? When you leave too?
I was even schooled on my French cheek kisses by someone at the gym! It can give a well-meaning foreigner a complex. We’re just trying to fit in so take it easy on us, OK?
In this hilarious video that’s been circulating on the interwebs, British comedian Paul Taylor points out why la bise is a royal pain in the butt and he nails it on all counts. I wholeheartedly agree about his take on French cheek kisses (don’t even get me started on when you wear glasses). Oh and if you’re offended by foul language, you may want to skip this.
Hope you loved that video on la bise in France as much as I did.
Annie Andre says
This is actually a great topic Diane. I
t’s been almost 5 years now and I am finally used to greeting people with a bise but my husband refuses. He only shakes hands. Here in the south, men almost always faire la bise with one another.
I actually appreciate the fact that my teenage sons friends always enter our house and faire la bise with me and shake hands with my husband as they enter. Very respectable.
I wrote a small article about our experience with La Bise in France here..
Hahha, your husband sounds great, just flat out refusing to do la bise. Sounds like me! K, if we’re being honest I cave and just do it if I see someone coming out me w/their pushed out cheek. But I’ve wanted to refuse. I do la bise with one trainer at the gym and a new guy started and he asks if he can have a bise too and i said “No I just met you” and walked away hahaha.
But like you said it’s very polite to greet each person individually even if it’s not what I’m used to. I like the respectful shaking of hands. Will check out your post! Thx for your comment!
“I do la bise with one trainer at the gym and a new guy started and he asks if he can have a bise too and i said “No I just met you” and walked away hahaha.”
Wow, this is rude …. What did it take you to just go along? You just do it, and move along usually…
Maybe it was a little harsh but in the moment I panicked and my instincts took over so I said no. It was me standing there with a sweaty face and a guy I just met — I figured a handshake would be perfectly acceptable. 😉 Have a good weekend!
So funny ! Thanks for sharing this. I’d like to see one on hugs in the USA.
You’re welcome. I think a hug one would be fun. I’ll have to see what I can find on YouTube!
So bloody funny just saying, I also don’t get the kissing thing but then I am Aussie not French
So no cheek kissing for Aussies? What do you do, hug like Americans?
Emily Commander says
Excellent! And thank you for the video link, which made me fall off my chair laughing
SO FUNNY, I nearly died too!