Starting off on the right (or left) cheek
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I’ve never found any rhyme or reason as to which side to start on. Some say that it depends on the region of France, but in my experience, it’s not that consistent – it seems more a matter of personal preference.
For a long time, I instinctively turned my head to the right (because I’m right-handed?) so that the first bise was on the left cheek. After a while, I noticed that my French bise partners were often surprised by this. Fortunately, they are very sensitive to these movements and quickly adjusted their head position to match mine. I eventually realized that most of my friends intended to start with the right cheek, so I now I always turn to to the left first. I still see the occasional surprise and adjustment from my partner in bise, but more often than not, we turn left at the same time in order to start with the right cheek.
Whichever side you choose, it’s important to turn your head with conviction. During one of my very first bises, I leaned straight leaned forward and then turned my head to the right, but my friend had already turned to the left. He noticed and turned his the other way, but unfortunately, it was too late and we ended up smacking our cheeks together. Quel désastre ! Or should I say bisastre? 🙂
Another possibility is to wait and see which way the other person’s head is going before following their lead.
Bises à gogo