Saying “Hello” in France

I had always known that countries like France, Spain, the latin countries in general, have the custom of saying hello by giving a kiss on each cheek (or 4 kisses, oy vey!, if you are in some parts of the world). So it wasn’t a huge surprise when I moved to France when someone approached me to say hello with a kiss on the cheek. It’s just a cultural difference that doesn’t exist in any of the countries I have lived in before.

The thing that gets me, though, is: 1) you must say hello to everyone by kissing them on the cheek, and 2) no hugs!

1) It’s not that I am anti-French or anti-French culture (of course, how could you even think that I am anti-French if I am living here and living with a french man…and if you did think so, shame on you!) but good lord…do I really have to say hello to 20 people (let alone strangers) by giving them a kiss on the cheek. It takes 30 minutes to say hello! I just want to get on with the party. And how am I supposed to remember their names, that they are saying to me mid-face-about-to-kiss-the-other-cheek, when I am so focused on aiming for their cheek and not the air/their ear/or, please god no, the in-between spot between your cheek and your mouth that provokes the question, “Did you just try to kiss me?” (Disclaimer: not that this has ever happened, but uhm, hello, even just the possibility of awkward!?)

Of course, if it’s my friends, or friends-of-friends, I am absolutely fine with giving bises. But, if you’re a smelly stranger, I’m really not inclined to kiss you on the cheek. And to all the wonderful French who just read this, please, keep kissing me (on the cheeks)! I need all the cultural lessons I can get!

2) No hugs. This sucks. I love hugs – that is, I love hugs from my friends, my family, and my boyfriend. If you are a creepy homeless person, I don’t want a hug. Thank you. But hugs are just so comforting and reassuring. And, in a way, I feel like hugs are much more intimate than a kiss on the cheek. Because everyone gives bisous on the cheeks here, a hug is even more special to me now. Thankfully, my girlfriends here have the same mentality as me and we all give each other hugs, which makes people stare at us, but that’s ok with me! I need my hugs!

Hope you are all doing well. Bisous!



Filed under Daily Life

3 responses to “Saying “Hello” in France

  1. Julien

    How funny! I could have written exactly the contrary when I was in Canada. Just like : how does it come you’re okay with melting your breast with mine and doing circles in my back BUT if I barely try to get my cheek closer to yours you’ll stare at me as if I was gonna rape you?
    I must say you’re so right with the 30-minutes-bisous-time-and-I-have-already-forgotten-your-name thing!
    And the “the possibility of awkward” lips to lips, happened to me once. A roomie leaving us after 3 months…good luck for explaining that it was NOT on purpose…
    On top of the cultural gap, I think there’s also a gender one as for hugs.
    Anyway, impatient de te faire un bisous la prochaine fois!

  2. Carrie

    I know what you mean!! When I was leaving my host family they wanted to just do les bises but since I had grown close to them and wasn’t sure when I’d see them again, I really thought hugs were in order. I managed to explain to them that my family is really big on hugs and got to hug them goodbye but they definitely thought I was weird. Anyways, hope all is well et tu me manques!

  3. Paul

    I want to be you ! At least for a couple of weeks.
    I can’t wait to see you in Paris and remember, you owe me a beer and I owe you a hug !

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