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Politeness in French - Part III

Updated: Nov 8, 2020

The perplexing subject of who should I kiss in France and how?

How and when to faire la bise !

Our third and final blog in our series on La Politesse en Français discusses what for most English speakers is the most culturally different and perhaps confusing aspect of politeness in France―the custom of faire la bise, the French practice of greeting family, friends, and sometimes even strangers, by lightly kissing both cheeks without actually ever touching lips to skin. If you missed Parts I and II of our series and would like to catch up, you can always access them on our blog page at

The Palace of Versailles
"Salut, Ghislaine.”

We have tried something a little different during this series by having you first listen to each blog completely in French to enhance your listening skills followed by a French, and then an English transcript. We are really going to challenge you in this third and final blog because Julie is speaking at a completely normal pace for a native French speaker. It’s fast! After your first listen, read the French transcript and then go back and listen again. Or read the text while listening. You’ll pick up lots more the second time! So here we go! Have fun!

French Transcription

Salut à tous, et bienvenue dans la troisième partie de La Politesse en Français. Il peut sembler étrange de parler de la bise maintenant, pendant la pandémie, mais cela va sûrement changer un jour, bientôt. Tout le monde veut savoir quelles sont les règles de cette coutume, cette habitude de faire la bise en France.

Faire la bise, ça veut dire en anglais “to give a light kiss on both cheeks as a form of greeting”. OK. D’habitude, on fait la bise à notre famille et à des amis proches, mais parfois même avec des étrangers en situation sociale comme une soirée avec d’autres amis. C’est toujours mieux de regarder les autres à la soirée et de suivre leur exemple avant de décider de faire la bise.

C’est important de savoir que faire la bise n’est pas romantique ou sexuelle.

C’est important de savoir que faire la bise n’est pas romantique ou sexuel. Les femmes font la bise plus souvent que les hommes. Les hommes font la bise avec des femmes bien sûr, mais parfois aussi entre hommes, ils se font la bise. Le plus souvent, les hommes entre eux disent simplement “salut” et se serrent la main. Donc, quand vous rencontrez quelqu'un en France, vous avez trois possibilités : faire la bise, serrer la main, ou simplement dire bonjour.

Pour faire la bise, en général, touchez d’abord votre joue droite (right cheek) à la joue droite de l’autre personne et faites comme si vous embrassiez l’air. Ne touchez pas vos lèvres à la joue. Après ça, répétez sur la joue gauche. Je dis "en général” car dans le Sud de la France, on commence souvent par l’autre côté.

C’est simple ! La première fois que vous faites la bise, ça peut sembler étrange, et vous pouvez vous sentir nerveux et mal à l’aise. Mais la deuxième fois, ça va marcher beaucoup mieux ! Et en quelques essais, ça va vous paraître normal !

Voilà ! J’espère que vous avez aimé notre série de blogs sur la politesse, et j’espère vous revoir bientôt ! Bisous !!

English Translation

Hello to all, and welcome to the third part of La Politesse en Français. It can seem strange to talk about a greeting kiss now during the pandemic, but that’s surely going to change one day soon. Everyone wants to know what are the rules of this custom or habit of faire la bise in France.

Faire la bise in English means to give a light kiss on both cheeks as a form of greeting. Usually we do “the greeting kiss” with our family and with close friends, but sometimes even with strangers in a social situation like a cocktail party with other close friends. It’s always best to watch the others at a party and follow their example before you decide to do the greeting kiss.

It’s important to know that doing this kiss is not romantic or sexual. Women faire la bise more often than men. Men do the greeting kiss with women, of course, but sometimes also between each other. More often men among themselves simply say “hi” and shake hands. So, when you meet someone in France, you have three possibilities: faire la bise, shake hands, or simply say “hi”.

In general, to faire la bise, first touch your right cheek to the right cheek of the other person and kiss the air. Don’t touch your lips to the cheek. After that, simply repeat on the left cheek. I say “in general” because in the south of France we often start on the other side.

It’s easy! The first time that you faire la bise it can feel strange, and you can feel nervous and ill at ease. But the second time, it will go better. And after a couple of tries, it’s going to seem normal to you!

There you go! I hope that you have enjoyed our series of blogs on politeness in France, and I hope to see you again soon! Kisses!!

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