La bise

This week-end, I went to my friend’s party in Bourgogne, a region of east-central France and I had some trouble with something typically French: la bise !!                                                                                                                                                                     ‘La bise’ is something well known when we talk about France but it’s also something which can seem strange and hard to un Let’s interpret it !

  • What is ‘la bise’?: It’s the french way to say ‘hello’ to someone
  • How to do it ?: Your cheek against the cheek of the other person and you do like you kiss the air. Repeat it with the other cheek.
  • When do we do it ? :  To say ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’ or ‘thank you’ for exemple for Christmas or you birthday after opening you presents you’ll thanks everybody by kissing them all.
  • Who does it ? : Two women do ‘la bise’, a man and a woman do it but usually two men shake hands even if sometimes they do ‘la bise’.
  • To whom do it ?: You can do it with you family, your friends, colleagues. If you are at a party and there are people you know and some you don’t, you do ‘la bise’ to everyone.

Watch this video and will explain it below:

1. If you meet a girl or a boy you’ve never met before do ‘la bise’ if it’s one of your friend’s friend or even if it’s not. If she/he has about your age you can too. One advice, if you don’t know what to do, wait and see what the person will do. If you see them stick their head out you can do ‘la bise’.

2. The kisses number is a problem. According to where you are in France we can make from 1 to 4 kisses. I do 2 kisses, one on each cheek.


(the numbers 93, 75, 92 and 94 are the Parisian region which is the white point next to the number 77 in the center-north, but it’s not big enough on the map to show it.)

3. The second problem with ‘la bise’ is that you don’t start with the same cheek if you are from the South, the North, the East or the West of France. For exemple where I live we do 2 kisses from the right, where I was this week-end they do 2 kisses from the left (BIG PROBLEMS!) which was complicated to do because of the habit I have to start with my right cheek.


Blue: start with the right cheek       Orange: start with the left cheek      Grey: it depends                                                                 (French: ‘chelou’ is a slang with which we reverse the syllabus which give the real word ‘louche’ which in this contexte means ‘strange’ so the grey one means ‘strange people who don’t know’)

There are some exceptions of course ! I live in the 69 (east) and this week end I was in the 71 (east), normally they start with the right like me but that wasn’t the case ….

4. Actually if you don’t want to do ‘la bise’ with everybody during a party, you can draw attention and say ‘I say hello to all of you’ and then don’t need to kiss everybody, it’s faster. But usually we do it, it’s not as long as it can seem, it allows you to see everyone !

5. When 2 people have glasses it’s a bit more complicated: either one of the 2 removes their glasses or they both keep it, it doesn’t matter, but glasses will clink against each other. From what I can see, if one of the two remove it, it’s because they don’t need their glasses every time (for example just to read, just to study …), personally without it I can’t see so I keep it.

6. According to this video, being sick is a good way to avoid doing ‘la bise’ but it’s not ! You still need to say ‘hello’ and each time you will say it, people will want to do ‘la bise’ with you and you will explain that your sick and they will ask questions… You see the problem ? So it’s longer to say ‘I’m sick’ each time, than to do ‘la bise’ !

The last problem of waiting before drinking will be explain in an other article !


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s