"OMG" an American friend recently yelled down the phone, "I think I just made a dreadful mistake, I was introduced to this distinguished looking French man and I leant forward to kiss him on both cheeks, I'm sure I should have waited or just shook his hand, or done nothing....His wife was standing there just sort of smirking .... This is SOO hard, I never know what to do"
The time had come to get back to basics:
1. Respectable adults (whatever that means) shake hands when they meet. If they get on well together and if the atmosphere is friendly and sociable, they will probably kiss - faire la bise - when they take leave.
2. Whenever I meet a friend, male or female, I will faire la bise. If I bump into them again during the day, it's not necessary to kiss since it's already been done for that day.
3 The bise, or kiss, itself is not a warm sloppy affair. Each person leans forward and directs his cheek towards the other persons cheek and makes a soft kissing sort of noise as their heads brush together. Hands don't have to touch, but may do. Generally the right hand is lightly touching the other's left shoulder.
4. When children meet up, or take leave, all ages in all circumstances, the girls do the bise to everyone, and the boys kiss the girls and shake hands with other boys. After all these years I still enjoy watching this need to touch as I sit outside school gates, or wait for my son at the rugby club.
5. There is nothing shocking in two men doing the bise, just a sign of close friendship and affection, not sexual.
6. There are those that give 4 kisses instead of two. This is a social class issue, take it from me, you don't want to go there!
Hope that helps!
photos thanks to Google Images