This is when French people greet each other with two kisses – one on each cheek. It is still very much ingrained in the French culture, it’s kinda like the equivalent of the English-speakers hug and becomes so natural French people don’t even think about it. Or that they’re following a bunch of rules (which I picked up in France)
1. Generally present your right cheek first (but in Southern France they start on the left)
2. Generally one kiss on each cheek
3. But in different regions it could be as many as 4 (2 on each cheek), particularly at weddings or big family occasions in Northern France
4. DON’T HUG! (it’s too intimate for the French, yeah I know – weird)
5. You start doing this French kiss as soon as you can walk
6. Women can ‘faire la bise’ with other women and other men, but cannot shake hands with men *unless it’s a business/work force situation*
7. Men can ‘faire la bise’ with other women but can only ‘faire la bise’ with male family members or male friends who are like brothers to them
8. Men generally shake hands with men they meet for the first time, but never shake hands with women they meet for the first time (I even had a French guy push my hand away when I tried to shake hands with him!)
But what has this got to do with dating a French man? Well, maybe an anecdote will make it more clear…
It started when my French boyfriend and I met my uncle and his wife in a pub in London. When he met my uncle he shook his hand, when he met his wife Sue, she automatically shook his hand.
I didn’t know at the time, but this exchange was a ‘WTF?’ moment for him.
Later that evening he found me in the bathroom and shut the door.
«Samantha» he said
«When I met Sue tonight she… she shook my hand!» he said like she had greeted him with a slap in the face.
«Ah bon… ? (Yeah… so?)»
«When I meet a woman for the first time, I kiss her!»
At this point I started laughing, realising how strange it was for him to meet a woman for the first time and shake her hand. I started to explain that it’s not really our culture to kiss someone on the cheek the first time you meet them, and if we do kiss you wait until you know the person a bit better…
«Well… It’s not like I tried to put my tongue down her throat!» he said in his defence.
So the moral of the story is kids: Prepare your French boyfriend for this odd ‘English speaker’ exchange where women shake men’s hands instead of kiss them…
Or don’t tell him at all and piss yourself laughing 😉