Nicola Harrington - guest blogger living in France with 7 holiday rental gites

Nicola Harrington

Kissing in France is terribly complicated. Do you kiss on one cheek, both cheeks, twice, three times, or four times?

Technically, I suppose, it is not actually a kiss: cheeks are touched and a kissing sound is made.

In some parts of France, I believe one or even three kisses are exchanged, but in Brittany, it is either two or four. Phew, the possibilities are halved!

There are some ‘rules’ to kissing on both cheeks as a greeting,  but I find these change from one day to the next.
It is a little easier for men as they only have to worry about the women: men with men always shake hands.
The general rule is, if you don’t know someone very well or if they hold a responsible or respectable job, like the mayor, a lawyer, or a doctor then you always shake hands. NEVER try and kiss your child’s teacher. Huge mistake!
If you know someone quite well you kiss them on both cheeks. Very good friends and family kiss four times.

I am finding that some French women are getting a bit bored with all this kissing. If you are the last woman to arrive at a meeting or social event it can take you fifteen minutes to kiss everyone! Women are now more likely to say: Bonjour tout le monde!

There are some embarrassing situations which will happen…

If you wear glasses beware, especially if the person you are kissing also wears glasses. It can get a bit clanky!

Yesterday, when you met you kissed. Today, you launch towards their left cheek only to be presented with a handshake. You are now off balance and fall into their arms.

I have two pieces of advice. The first is to arrive at any meeting or social gathering early. It is then up to the people arriving after you to approach you with either a handshake or a kiss.

The second is to forget how you were greeted yesterday or last week, it will be different this time.

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