Monday, January 30, 2012

French Kissing. . .

Kiss-kiss.
Non, non, non, pas ça mes amis. No indeed.

I'm talking about air-kissing, perhaps considered an affectation on the other side of the Atlantic -- or the Pacific for that matter, but in my life it's a normal form of greeting, and, honestly I love it.

I mention the custom today because if you click here you will be taken to a post I wrote for Women's Voices for Change where I explain why I love my French girlfriends. We always say "bonjour" and "au revoir" with light brushes of our cheeks, lips pressed into a relaxed kiss formation and usually a whisper in the ear about how happy we are to see each other.

Rarely do women really "plant" a kiss on a cheek -- heaven forbid, one could leave a lipstick trace -- but men who are good friends do actually gently kiss a woman's cheeks. This I really love.

There are many, many nuances on the ritual -- the number of times, two in Paris for example, more as one moves south in the country.

France's First Lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, and Letizia of Spain setting up for their official air-kiss -- right cheek to right cheek. I'm confused. Are they leaning to the left?
I'm sure there is some protocol for left or right cheek first and I could Google to find out, but I simply scope out the direction someone is leaning in for the kiss they are about to give me and I follow their lead. An interesting article in the London Daily Mail some time ago noted that studies reveal the level of emotional feeling connected with social bises, is demonstrated by which way we tilt our heads.

Approximately 80 percent of men and women turn their heads to the right when kissing cheek-to-cheek, which is supposedly a gesture of genuine feeling while those leaning toward the left were reacting with the less emotional part of their brain and thus not making a warm gesture at all.

38 comments:

sharon said...

Oh dear, now I have to wonder if I am a left or right-brained kisser, just when I thought life was getting less complicated!
have a fun week
xx

Anonymous said...

Where I grew up, it was a double kiss, one to each side of the face. But here, in NYC, it's just one kiss, and a "mwah" sound. Interesting.

The enchanted home said...

Here its one kiss and I think somehow I go for the left but will have to observe the next time!! Interesting about the different cultures and customs.

Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

I am not sure why...but I think this is beginning to spread around! There are more women in Texas doing this lately...maybe they came from somewhere else. But i love it and I am happy to see the greeting make its rounds!!

Karena said...

I have always liked this because it is almost like a hug (the double kiss) I always wear a lipstick or gloss and never want it to end up on someones face or clothing!

xoxo
Karena
Art by Karena

ms. caboo said...

Here in the Midwest, no one air kisses. It's shake hands, or give a quick hug to a friend in greeting.

déjà pseu said...

We have a Frenchwoman in the family (by marriage) who still greets us all this way. It's lovely, and feels so civilized.

LPC said...

The nuances are fascinating. No kissing here in Northern California unless you really care for someone. And then only once. And it embarrasses the software guys to no end:).

la fourchette said...

I still miss good old American hugs with my friends...but this is nice if 1) it really *is* cheek to cheek (I don't like sloppy kisses on both cheeks and then having to stand there resisting wiping them off in front of the offending party) and 2) *not* during cold and flu season...but that's just me.

We're two-kissers down here in Aix. Once upon a time, when I had only been here a few months and was still new at this, I was exchanging 'bisous' with a group of new acquaintances with whom I'd spent an evening of socializing. One of the husbands in the group (also new to the custom) zigged in a different direction than I was zagging and we ended up doing accidental 'lip-plant' much to our shared chagrin...and perhaps that of the wife, come to think of it. We ended up having a good laugh...but it's the kind of thing that only happens once...one hopes!

Annette said...

I also love this French way of greeting (and the good friend manly kisses on the cheek). I often get the number wrong and I've gone the wrong direction as well -- but a good laugh is all I get in return and that's good too.

J.W. said...

I am a left-leaning air kisser but I am also left-handed...???

Rubiatonta said...

When I lived in Paris, the rule was two kisses for acquaintances and three for good friends. Here in Madrid, it's two for everyone. (And I'm lucky enough to have a male friend from France who gives me little real kisses on the cheeks, which always surprises me.)

helen tilston said...

Hello Tish

I am a left hand kisser. Somewhere I heard this is where my heart is and I am giving my heart to the receiver.
It is the intent of the giver and the affection bestowed that is important so on that note MVAHHHHHHHHH
Helen xx

Cheryl said...

I have to really think about this... I am from a family of huggers. It's hard though, because as I get older, I am not sure I am as comfortable with that as I once was.
I will have to pay a bit more attention.... xx

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

It's one kiss on the cheek in my circle of friends. Hugs are much more common, people still shake hands when being introduced.

Beadboard UpCountry said...

Yes! Love this custom and they way one is greeted and then the Au Revoir or Bon journee when you leave..... So Civilised.....Maryanne xo (left cheek)xo (right cheek);)

kathy peck said...

Air kisses are nice, because you don't have to worry about lipstick smudges, but in LA, it's one kiss (for close friends) and maybe a hug.

Jennifer said...

So much more civilized than dodging a "right on the lips" kisser. Especially if it's from a woman who is all gooped up with lips gloss.

Linda McMullan said...

This is really interesting, because all my life I have been a hug-and/or-kiss-upon-greeting person, but have never perfected the air kiss. I was raised in rural Alabama, and a kiss is a kiss. I don't wear lipstick or gloss, so I DO plant a light kiss on the cheek the person I'm greeting, which sometimes startles the recipient. I'm pretty short, so sometimes, this results in a kiss on the THROAT of that startled person. After reading this and studying the photos, I am going to practice religiously to kiss the air...

Spiral Style said...

I like this practice and hate dodging the full-on lip kissers. I only like to kiss my husband on the lips.

Lorrie said...

I miss greeting my friends this way. Air-kissing is very common in South America, too, which is where we encountered it.

I'm definitely a left-leaner and I don't think I buy the theory of a less warm gesture. But then, my head tilts a little to the left all the time.

vicki archer said...

Tish... You will love this article I put on Facebook yesterday.... Very amusing...

http://www.paris-update.com/fr/hot-topics/cest-ironique-/21511-what-they-dont-teach-you-in-french-class-part-ii-to-bise-or-not-to-bise

xv

Veronica said...

Here in Cape Town it is one kiss on the lips if you know the person followed by a hug. However, since we have become more cosmo, some people opt for the french way and kisses on both cheeks. So, you have to keep your wits about you to remebemer who does what! The younger set seem you hug even at first intro... Confusion rules!!

Veronica
Tassels Twigs and Tastebuds

BigLittleWolf said...

Tish - you tease!

I lean left, and make actual contact! I like two kisses and even three...

J'adore les bises !

French Girl in Seattle said...

Foreigners are not the only ones who get puzzled by the kissing ritual in France. While we still lived in Paris, I often witnessed French people committing faux-pas when they arrived at a party... unintentionally, of course, but simply because they came from a French region where social etiquette required 2, 3, or 4 kisses. Occasionally, there would be collisions, or puzzled looks as people could not agree on how many times they had to kiss each other. I also recommend my students to arrive early at a French party. This way, you are already there when everyone arrives, and you get to watch newcomers do the kissing thing without too much pressure. ;-) Good times. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

Tish Jett said...

Three is the most confusing. You sort of stop, hanging in mid air.

hopflower said...

I think we are over complicating it, really.

Maryl said...

Thank you for the tips. I will now air-kiss with more confidence, which can be iffy even here in NYC if the person you are greeting isn't aware of this more European approach. I've noticed hugs are more in favor here now after a kiss. We'll have to think about the proper etiquette for incorporating a more physical embrace. Actually I was just talking about air-kisses yesterday which as you say can seem phony on this side of the Atlantic. I had just put up a blog post on the point of Facebook "likes" and he was comparing a like to an air-kiss if the individual didn't follow you after that. I'm going to practice my air-kissing some more anyway.

Duchesse said...

Married to a French-Canadian for 25 years, the double kiss is most familiar, but my Midwestern American parents never felt comfortable. "Nice people but they are always KISSING", my mother used to say. We kiss right cheek to right cheek first.

Jill Ann said...

Duchesse, this is a funny topic after reading Bourbon & Pearls post about British manners. Perhaps we of the British &/or Midwestern reserve are just not that comfortable with the kissing! Although, my English uncle-by-marriage always greets me with a kiss on the lips. Hmmmmm.

maryb said...

Oh dear - I'm a bit worried because I turn my head to the left!!!
Perhaps it's because I'm a left hander - or as it's known in Australia - a " mollydooker".
I'll try to turn my head to the right next time.....

Carol said...

l love the ' kiss greeting' which we practice with friends and family.
Now l'm going to have to observe which side l aim for first !

That's Not My Age said...

I always feel a bit uncomfortable air kissing - probably because I'm so clumsy, it can quite easily turn into a head butt! - much prefer a hug.

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

Now you've got me thinking which way do I turn first. Oh my, so much to learn.
Sam

Ange said...

Think I always go for the right and end up having to go to the left. Shall remember and scrutinise the kissing sides with those I spend time with. Fabulous post and enjoyed the other on French girlfriends just as much. Couldn't do without my own personally.
Mwa Mwa Chérie ;-)

Splenderosa said...

I just love this! All of the girlfriends do this and it just seems so sweet. I think Princess Letizia is completely flawless. Great post, Tish...xx's

NotesFromAbroad said...

I live in a city/country where people kiss upon meeting. Even if they just saw each other an hour ago.
They kiss one or both cheeks.
We see school children leaving school, all gathered on the sidewalk, all kissing each other goodbye.
I see very old women stopping and kissing, talking, kiss kiss, good bye ~
My neighbors kiss me when they see me, when I am leaving.
The man who sells flowers across the street kisses my husband and I every time we see him .. my husband asks me sometimes to walk a different way, so he can avoid the extra ( whiskery) kiss lol
I love it.

Susan Tiner said...

So interesting. I would enjoy the kissing. But I'm an affectionate one. In Northern CA embraces are more common than kissing but several of my girlfriends do kiss on greeting and saying good-bye or good-night.

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