La bise is one of the first things anyone will notice once inside a French territory. I haven’t done as much kissing as I have done these past two months. Yes, it’s already two months my people and I just realized when my sister texted me, ‘happy two months away’. I even had to check my calendar.
La bise is a way of greeting for the French people, where from what I have seen and experienced is a peck on the cheek, sometimes I see it done on both cheeks and there is a certain sound that is always made/produced. Thing is different regions have their own sort of unwritten ‘rules’. Like some kiss on the cheek once others twice and others even three times. It is said that la bise came from the Romans.
My first experience started from the airport when I landed in Pointe à Pitre. I was picked up by two of my colleagues and so I removed my hand to greet one of them and she was shocked. This was followed by series of several other awkward encounters. I also felt and still feel so weird kissing or having my cheeks touch with strangers but it is slowly settling in.
Another thing is I never know which side to start from; it keeps changing so I have taught myself to first make eye contact then let the other person approach first lest I find myself kissing people’s lips like what happened to a colleague of mine.
I have also noticed that small/younger boys are the ones who would approach first and bring the cheek, which makes it easy. Something else that confuses me is, during la bise since it’s done on both cheeks some people usually kiss my cheek first then touch their cheek on mine on the other side or vice versa. I think I will stick on the cheeks touching and producing the sound. I also find it polite that most men I have encountered would ask first before doing the bise. So they will go like, ‘faire la bise?’ then respond according to ones answer. While interacting with them and through observation too, most men don’t do la bise with each other except when they’re closely related.
Free Advice: When going to a party or a gathering, it is wise to be early because everyone who comes in needs to do la bise with everyone, if again you decide to leave early while the party is still going; you need to do la bise with everyone who is there as you head out haha.
My worst experience: One time just before entering the church for mass, I greeted a lady and before I knew it I was left with a whole patch of sweat on my cheek. I learnt to use my sixth sense especially with strangers; sometimes I would just remove my hand and smile.