La Bise

Kissing Customs Regional Distribution in France
Kissing Customs Regional Distribution in France
More than one year ago, I wrote a in France, almost a national sport here. Yet it is way more interesting to know of La Bise (to be pronounced 'beez'), these quick kisses the French are used to exchanging all the time.

Careful here though: you'd better not mix up a French Kiss and a Bise. I am pretty sure you don't need an explanation about what a French kiss is, do you? Let's focus on the bise then.

Although a word in the singular, la bise refers to a couple of pecks on the checks given and received when you say hello or good bye. Men in France usually shake hands and don't kiss other men but close relatives such as father and son, or brothers. Women usually don't shake hands of other women they know. They kiss each other. Between a man and a woman, la bise is also the usual way to greet, as soon as you know the other one reasonably well. Male and female friends exchange la bise to say hello and good bye. At work, male and female colleagues will practice la bise also.

There is no standard French pattern for the number of kisses kissed in a bise. Some regions go for only one, others for three or four. Parisians once used to give four pecks, alternately put on each cheek, but modern speedy life did a lot of damage there also: it is usually made of two pecks only now. For your information, and because a scientific article such as the present one should supply detailed and accurate information to the reader, the map above displays French kissing habits among French regions. I found it somewhere on the web, but since there were a couple of errors, I amended it so that it depicts the state of the art in 2008 — isn't it mere professionalism?

Briefly said then, there is nothing suggestive in la bise, but socialization and friendship. Granted, friendship between a man an a woman is usually enlivened with just a , a flake of titillation. However, such a kiss is not at all intimate. It does not even matter if it is an air kiss, that doesn’t touch skin, or if it does.

In fact, being a Frenchman, I consider a bise as much less intimate than a hug. Just think about it: pressing your body against someone else's body... even when, say, you're a heterosexual man and the other person is male also? How weird.

2 comment(s):

    La bise! Such a wonderful thing. My family gives each other kisses in this way. We greet family members we have never met in this manner as well. It is a wonderful custom.



    Besos, Mariposa! Y abrazos también.


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