Wednesday, February 03, 2010


The kiss on both cheeks - les “bisous” – are the French (contami)national symbol for hello and goodbye. Even in the dead of winter when microbes are ubiquitous throughout the air and “la grippe A” (a very chic, French, pretty way to say “swine flu”) is spreading rapidly, Parisiens insist on kissing each other despite the obvious danger to the kissee. They call this art “La Bise.”
I can’t even tell you how many times someone has “bisoused” me (bisou v. {bee-zoo-d} to give the two-cheeked French kiss greeting) and after I say “ça va?” respond with “oh, by the way I have the stomach flu” or “no, in fact, I have a very contagious strain of ebola.” The thought would never occur to said French person to perhaps – gasp! – NOT give the bisous considering the illness? But of course – bisouing in France is like breathing, you simply just do it naturally. Except of course to perhaps your boss or someone in a business meeting or an elder. But then you get into the whole “vous” vs. “tu” debate and, well, that’s just too complicated for a Wednesday afternoon. The French take their bisous very seriously. Going out to a group dinner is, in fact, one of France’s unspoken national sports. Before one can sit down at the table, one must give two kisses (or three if your fellow diners hail from certain regions of Southern France) on the cheeks of each guest and THEN, before leaving, another table round. For a dinner of 10 people, that’s a total of 40 kisses, and 20 left-to-right neck movements. I’ve figured it out. THAT’S the French paradox. THAT’S how they stay so thin. Forget “the smaller portions sizes” or “their metabolism” – they perform the equivalent of a quarter triathlon before and after every meal.
A message to all Parisians: THINK before you bisou. Have a cold? I don’t. I don’t want one. Shake my hand if you must – I’m American, I always carry Purell in my purse of course – but please, no bisEWWW. And with that, I must go – I have to go do some neck exercises to get in shape for a big dinner with some friends later tonight…


hayjane said...

Hey Rebecca - awesome blog and loving all the Paris puns. Can I pick your brains? I'm coming over to paris for just one day from London in a couple of weeks and would love some suggestions and ideas for what a twentysomething girl should do and see. I'll be on my own so all rather scary!


紅包 said...

好好充實內在,空袋子是站不起來的。 ..................................................

Caroll said...

Ahah very funny !
I'm french and truly sometimes I really get bored of kissing everyone like you said! See : I'm in the highschool, so EVERY morning I have tomake "La bise " to ALL my 1.friends, 2.people who I used to know but I don't care anymore, 3.people I've never really know but my friends know them so since i'm close they kiss me because it's POLITE!
So yes truly La bise c'est chiant!
Sacré français!
By the way, c'est bien toi qui chronique le cinéma sur Le grand journal souvent non?

Rebecca Leffler said...

HayJane, I can't figure out how to respond to you but give me your email, happy to send my fave spots in Paris.

Caroll, oui c'est bien moi l'américaine au "Grand Journal" ! Maintenant tu pourras donner des vrais HUGS à tes amis au lycée, on vais revolutionner la France !!

Bisous à vous tous, and thanks for reading le blog !!!

Shannon said...

You've addressed one of my favorite subjects. I too have a blog on this very theme, we even made some of the same comments?! Crazy.

Loved yours, hope you like mine too!

22heures22 said...

and in Lyon, 2 bises but they start on the left side. In Paris on the right side.
When I arrived il Lyon, it was quite perturbing for me, still is...
I love how American hugs each others.