What is the protocol with the faire la bise custom? I heard that it differs between regions and people and that it's not really a kiss but a pretend kiss. Would you be viewed as uncultured if you had been doing it wrong ie actually lips touching the cheek kissing?
How to “faire la bise”
The “regular” bise is just the cheeks “bumping”, no lips or even kiss involved. Imagine a virtual vertical line right in the middle of your cheek: the part from your mouth to your mid-cheek is for affectionate kisses, the part from your mid-cheek to your ear is for the bise. We slightly bump that second part only and most of us fake a kissing sound but we never actually “kiss” the cheek. We add that sound because the cheeks only bumping feels sort of empty and the fake kiss sound actually makes it feel like a greeting “kiss”.
Do lips touch the cheek ?
"Lip kissing" can happen, but only if there’s affection involved or on a particular occasion, like to cheer up a sad friend. It’s more like a "cuddling kiss" than a greeting kiss. So it mostly happens between parents and children, best friends or at least dear friends to make them feel happy, cuddled, or if they just got a bad news and you want to cheer them up, etc… If a French native person we barely know "lip kiss" our cheek, that feels really creepy and out of place. That could be also seen as a desperate/lame attempt at seducing, at making a physical contact like "heyyy I like you but I’m such a loser, I can’t tell you directly".
From a foreigner, that’d be seen as “une erreur de débutant”. Not a big deal, we’ll pass on it thinking nobody properly explained you how to greet the French way.
What cheek to tend and how many kisses ?
You also have to know that Southern French people tend to “kiss” with their right cheek while Northern people tend to do it with their left cheek, which leads to really funny situations with French people shaking their heads repeatedly until they’re on the same page on which cheek to use like “Ah! Ah! Ah!” *Both freeze* “Bon bah par la droite alors haha !”” *uncomfortable laughs and massive urge to kill yourself*.
Also, depending on which region you’re in, there is a traditional number of kisses, two (one of each cheek) being the most regular one. Here’s a map :
But there’s no biggie if you forget, because the sentence “Ah non ! Chez nous c’est 3 !” *Uncomfortable laughs bis repetita* is extremely mainstream too.
While I doubt I will ever have the pleasure of dating a French man, I do have a general question on dating. Is it true that dating in France is generally done with groups of friends? And that just a few kisses (not even passionate kisses) kind of means you two are in an exclusive serious relationship?
What do you mean exactly by “with groups of friends”? If you’re pointing the fact that French people hang out in bars in groups, that’s true. But when it comes to dating, the couple can go out with friends just like they can go out alone if they feel like sharing a moment just the two of them together… It’s up to them!
And no, few kisses doesn’t mean anything like that. French are quite fluid with their sexuality and lovelife, they can kiss or even have sex without “dating” each other for real. Dating is pretty much a decision both make when they feel they start to have feelings or an attraction strong enough to justify being exclusive to each other.
But I don’t mean that all French are like that. People have different personal stories and a kiss can shape into many forms… a kiss while drunk in a party is completely different than a kiss after longing for each other for a while. The first doesn’t mean anything while the second totally means the beginning of something. That has nothing with being French, it’s just life!
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec - Le baiser
Embrasser : To kiss
S’embrasser : To kiss each other
Se faire la bise : To kiss someone hello, on the cheek.
Se taper la bise : To kiss a friend hello, on the cheek. - Slang
Se becoter : To snog - Slang
Se rouler un patin/une pelle : To give a French kiss, lip-lock - Slang
Un baiser : A kiss
Un bisou : A small or innocent kiss
Une bise : A kiss on the cheek to say hello
Un bécot : A “quick” snog
A kiss - Slang : Une galoche, une pelle, un patin, un palot.
This map of France is titled How many kisses? and charts out how many cheek kisses is customary in each region.
Doisneau - Le Baiser de l’Hotel de Ville.
Le baiser de L’opera (Opera Kiss) - Robert Doisneau, Paris, 1950
“The marvels of daily life are exciting; no movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find in the street.”
- Robert Doisneau, The Encyclopedia of Photography, 1984