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Avoid social kissing. How la bise ban is changing greetings etiquette
Avoid social kissing. How la bise ban is changing greetings etiquette

By Dana Gornitzki

Baguette, fromage, beautiful wine, and – naturellement – ‘la bise’. It doesn’t get any more quintessentially French than that. Cliché, yes, but handsome fact – oh la la!

Without delving into the supposed evils of the first three (carbs, fat, blah blah. Moderation, dear gentlereaders, moderation!), now the dear French are being told to hold back on social kissing. Mais oui, it’s true, a ban on exchanging kisses when saying hello and goodbye.

Thanks to H1N1 -  aka le flu de cochon -  no more ‘mwah mwah’ or even peck on the cheek (and there’s enough confusion about protocol when it comes to social kissing: One kiss? Two? A quick cheek to cheek? Manners, manners!).

Now the French are being encouraged to find altenative civilised greetings.

In addition to ‘la bise’ ban, the French government continue to impose more ‘sanitary habits’ and greeting etiquette to prevent the spread of the flu pandemic including: Washing hands more frequently, covering one’s mouth when coughing (which should come naturally, non?) and discouraging and hand shaking.

Apparently, the change in rules of social kissing have already extended beyond the French borders.

In these times, a more conservative modus operandi is absolutely acceptable if not delightful.


- Simply say hello from not too close a distance especially when you don’t know the other person. Joan Collins didn’t want to kiss Lily Allen when first introduced, saying she ‘doesn’t kiss anyone [she] doesn’t know.” Very clever gentlelady. Why should we?

- Air kiss. It’s practical and the next best thing to an actual brush of the cheek.  This manoeuvre has been perfected in the fashion industry, it may very well become in vogue on a larger scale. Simply pucker the lips - just slightly - and kiss the air. Start with the right side and repeat on the left.


- Not just the social kiss or ‘la bise’ but also shaking hands. Hello, bacteria. You don’t know what bugs rest on hands that press your flesh. Bugs from public transport, sneezes, and who knows where else. If one must shake hands, one must be ready to wash hands regularly and avoid touching the face.

Hopefully social kissing will be a la mode again very soon, but in the meantime, safety first.

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