‘Faire la Bise’ – to kiss or not to kiss?

The Kiss 1901-4 by Auguste Rodin 1840-1917

And then how many times?!

Greeting French people in France is a complicated matter. Rather than shaking hands, waving hello or hugging, people often greet each other with a kiss.

So, when exactly do you use a kiss as a greeting? To whom? And, most important of all, how many kisses? Socially, of course, but in my experience, at work too. When I first started teaching in a French secondary school, it was a little surprising to walk into the staff room and shake hands with everyone and then, when I knew everyone better to ‘faire la bise’. On reflection, I rather liked it!

But how many kisses and why the variation? Where you are in France will determine how many kisses you give but even this isn’t a given. Different people have different opinions! It may be twice, three or even four.

The next question is who exactly do you kiss? When you meet someone for the first time, you don’t usually kiss, you shake hands or say hello. With friends, as your friendship develops a handshake will become a bise.  Family members almost always greet each other with a kiss. Young people kiss one another a lot! I was very aware of this in the playground when I was teaching in France but again I thought this was rather sweet.

Even men will greet one another with a kiss but not quite nearly as often as it happens between two women or a woman and a man.

All in all, it can be quite confusing and I tend to take my lead from the French themselves. This can also work when wondering whether to use tu or vous.

Where do you stand in the kissing debate? I’d love to know!

I am adding this post to the #AllAboutFrance monthly linky; a great place to sample lots of interesting blog posts connected to France.



13 thoughts on “‘Faire la Bise’ – to kiss or not to kiss?

  1. Great information! Even though there doesn’t seem to be a rule, I understand that it is in the south of France that most often people greet each other with 3 kisses. I love it, don’t you?!


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  3. I’m a huge kisser. Therefore, I feel so relaxed when I’m in France. I love the fact that everytime we leave Bonaparte’s aunt’s apartment–even to just head off to Rue Bucci to get a baguette, we kiss each other then when we return we kiss again. We kiss each other good morning and we kiss each other bon nuit. We kiss the family members and friends when we meet for dinner or when we run into each other on the street. We usually kiss twice—but when we arrive in Paris after the flight, it’s usually a four-kiss greeting! It’s just so civilized and refined. One of my favorite kisses was receiving welcome kisses from the owner of our neighborhood bistro. THAT was a riot! Kisses to you!


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  6. I go through stages of liking/hating the bise. I’m happy to do it with individuals but get sick of arriving at a party and having to go around everyone before even getting a drink!! I used to do it religiously as I’m the foreigner in France but now if I don’t feel like it, I play the foreigner card and just don’t! I guess that comes with the confidence of having been here for 20 years now, I know when I really have to do it and when I can get away with being “anglaise”. Thanks for linking up to #AllAboutFrance


  7. When I was last in Paris, I was meeting an American woman who lived in Paris. It was hilarous because I am a “hugger” and she having lived in Paris so long was now a “kisser.” It made for a good laugh.



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