La bise is back: Many in France divided over return of cheek kissing

To bise or not to bise that is the question? I am now more than happy to embrace my closest friends and any good-looking men that should happen across my path but my view isn’t universal.

Congratulations kiss: French president Emmanuel Macron embraces Kylian Mbappe during a ceremony to honour France's 2018 World Cup winners.

The traditional French greeting of a kiss on the cheek has sadly suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic, but two-thirds of French people (including me) have now returned to their old ways.

In the spring of 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic changed everything – suddenly the French government was advising its citizens not to kiss people on the cheek. In a world where gestes barrières (protective measures) were essential to saving lives, there was no longer any place for la bise.

Today, 65% of people in France kiss their close friends, family or colleagues on the cheek, according to the results of a survey published late last week. That’s a significant increase on March 2021, when only 39% continued doing la bise, although it’s too early to talk about a return to normal – before the first lockdown, but after the virus had begun circulating in France, 91% of people participated in the greeting, according to survey results from March 2020.

A quarter of French people are even more relaxed. 23% said they would now kiss a stranger, more than double the rate six months ago (9%). In case you’re interested, I would kiss a stranger, but only if he was good looking! A girl’s got to have standards.

Too soon?

Although more than 85% of people over the age of 12 are now fully vaccinated, health authorities are cautious about the effects of cold weather and the potential for vaccines to become less effective over time. The official line is unchanged: we should still be keeping our distance.

On 14th October, Jean-François Delfraissy, head of France’s Scientific Council, told newspaper Le Monde: “

We need to insist on the importance of maintaining protective measures as much as possible, at least until spring 2022.

As a consequence, many of those embracing la bise have become more selective with whom they’re getting close to. According to the survey, only 12% automatically kiss close friends and family. That figure is highest among the 25 to 34 age group (19%), while those on the older (this so doesn’t include me) side remain more cautious (5% of over-65s).

Finally an excuse

While the custom is gradually returning to French life, there are those who can’t imagine going back to sharing their germs, preferring an air kiss. For those who were never fully on board with the whole kissing thing, the pandemic has finally made avoiding it socially acceptable.

Handshakes less popular

Of course, people in France weren’t just going around kissing everybody they met before the pandemic – other common greetings have been affected, too.

The handshake, which is more common in a professional environment, has also been collateral damage. Before the first lockdown, 85% regularly shook hands with people they knew. That had fallen to 22% in March, but has since risen to 59% with many preferring a fist or elbow bump.

 

 

 

51 Comments on “La bise is back: Many in France divided over return of cheek kissing

  1. Thank you Sheree, for this interesting update. I have been wondering about cheek kissing in Latin America. I will ask a few friends to see how it fares this autumn.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Dear Sheree – I do prefer japanese manners. Il have japanese very close friends since … years and years, and I think that smiles, friendly words are quite eloquent.
    Un des avantages du confinement a été la disparition de la ” bise ” simplement amicale, que je n’ai jamais aimée.
    C’est évidemment tout à fait différent pour la famille intime !
    amitiés

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Vive la France. “To bise or not to bise that is the question? I am now more than happy to embrace my closest friends and any good-looking men that should happen across my path but my view isn’t universal.” Ching-ching.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. nah no bise than no sex as not one meter away lol!!! crazy people!! I kiss all women not men just part of my Latin psyche ::)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. We stayed in an Airbnb in Dijon. They gladly took us to the station for our next leg of our journey. As we were ready to go after getting our luggage from their car, Madeleine gave me 3 bise. I said trois? She said it was because we were wonderful guests and admired how we explored their city and gave them new insights into their city. Never have had three bise since 😀💋

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I hug my family but that’s my limit, they’re sensible to keep away if any of them has a cold, but I don’t trust anyone else. I’ve had ten months of Long Covid and picking up further infection of any description scares me.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Kissing was never the custom in Denmark, only hugging. I only kiss my husband, but I hug family and friends and shake hands with people who also are willing to do it. I find the elbow bump silly – then a friendly smile and short bow will be preferable (in my opinion).

    By the way, I have seen on several occasions (in France) that women not really kissed, but made kissing noises in the air. I wonder if that was because of makeup?

    The Dutch used to kiss three times, at least that is what some Dutch people told us.

    Liked by 2 people

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  9. Pingback: La bise is back: Many in France divided over return of cheek kissing – e.v.y.

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