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How to do la bise
Faire la bise is often translated as “cheek kissing” or even “air kissing,” when a more accurate – though decidedly less elegant – description is “lightly pressing alternating cheeks together while making optional kissy sounds.” Regardless of what it’s called, here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Turn your head slightly to one side – let’s say to the left, so that your right cheek is now facing the other person’s (hopefully also) right cheek.*
Step 2: Lean forward and lightly press your right cheek to their right cheek.
Step 2½ (optional): Make a soft kiss sound with your mouth.
Step 3: Pull your head back a bit (so that you don’t bump noses or brush lips) as you and your partner in bises both turn your heads slightly to the right.
Step 4: Press your left cheeks together (and optionally make another kiss sound).**
There is usually no actual lips-to-cheek contact, with occasional exceptions. A friend of a friend once planted a kiss on my first cheek but not the second, leaving me to wonder if he’d expected me to reciprocate with a kiss on the second cheek.
* See Bises sur le bon côté
** You may need to repeat a third, fourth, and even fifth time – see Combien de bises ?
- If you’re wearing glasses, consider taking them off before offering your cheek, especially sunglasses (so that the other person can see your eyes) or if the other person is also wearing glasses (so that the two pairs don’t clash).
- Likewise with hats – nothing ruins a bise quite like hitting someone in the forehead with the stiff brim of a baseball cap.
- If you’re sick, it is not only acceptable but preferred to avoid the bises, with a brief explanation.
- If you can’t or don’t want to faire la bise for any reason, you should shake hands or bump elbows instead.
Bises à gogo
- Introduction to bises
- How to do la bise
- Starting off on the right cheek
- How many bises?
- Bises à la française (audio)
- La bise en France (video)
- « La fête de la bise » (video)
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