French greetings, gestures and kisses

18 April 2018
door Regina Coeli

The French have an expression: simple comme bonjour (a piece of cake). But French greetings are not that simple, especially for foreigners. The French do not just say 'Salut'. They also shake hands or kiss.

At work in the morning, colleagues shake hands, and sometimes it is also customary to shake hands again at the end of the day. Shaking hands is thus a ritual at the beginning and end of each encounter, even if the encounter only lasts five minutes.

‘Faire la bise' (giving a kiss), on the other hand, is an art form unto its own. You should always ask yourself three questions: when, who and how many

  • When? In your spare time, sometimes in the morning with (close) colleagues, with your family and when you visit friends.
  • Who? Family members, acquaintances and (close) colleagues are greeted with a kiss every day. Status and age play an important role: the boss won’t kiss you. In families, men sometimes kiss each other. This is more common among young people.
  • How many? The number of kisses depends on the region. In Paris and the northern part of France, they kiss twice. In Normandy and Brittany it’s four kisses, and they give three in the south. Even the French don’t always know exactly how (many). This map can help you! 


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