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L'art de la bise

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"Simple comme bonjour" is used to say that something could not be simpler - "simple comme bonjour"... But there is nothing more complicated than saying "bonjour" in France, especially for a foreigner. Because the French don't just say "hello", or simply shake hands like the Germans, they give each other "la bise". And giving "la bise" is an art unto itself. Someone who hasn't learned it from an early age like young French children ("Come on, give auntie Geraldine")... ...often looks uncomfortable. A bit stiff, the foreigner leans forward, lips puckered, not daring to touch the other person... ...not knowing which side to start on, not sure whether to touch with the lips or to just "kiss the air"... Don't laugh - young German exchange students are all familiar with that terrifying moment when they are faced with their host family... ...and when everyone is thinking of one thing, and one thing only: giving them "la bise". To give "la bise", one must ask four questions: 1) when? 2) who? 3) how? 4) how many? 1) When: when meeting up for leisure activities, sometimes in the morning at work, and always when arriving at friends' houses. Clearly, kissing time is proportional to the number of friends If you arrive at a party where there are already fifteen people there, you could easily die of hunger before you get to the food. Germans, who usually just wave "hello", always find this a bit annoying. 2) Who: you must take into account the family, friendly or professional nature of the relationship, age, and the status of the person in question. For example, one does not give "la bise" to a superior at work - or rather, one should wait until he/she initiates it. But colleagues kiss each other abundantly. With men, it depends. They sometimes kiss when they are friends or members of the same family, but not always. Among young people, there is lots of kissing, and boys are beginning to do this more and more. 3) How: "la bise" can create an immediate promiscuity, and can serve as a basis for flirting. The intensity, the duration and the conviction with which one gives "la bise" varies, and one must follow one's instincts. If one does not know the other person well, it is advisable to exercise restraint. 4) How many? Now we have arrived at the problem of the number - Parisians give 2, people from Montpellier give 3, in Turballe they give 4, in Gard 3... ...and so on. When one doesn't know where the other person comes from, it's easy to have a moment of confusion - because it's very unpleasant to attempt a third kiss, when the person in question has already turned away... ...or to stop at three kisses, when the other person is dying to give you a fourth. But, I have noticed that even French people don't know how many kisses are given in each region. I'm told that in Strasbourg, it's 2 - or 3 - or 2. A native of Nemours assures us that there they give 4 - then others say that it's 2. Why this uncertainty? It's due to a problem of social class. In France, one must always know that social class is a fundamental question. In general, it can be said that the bourgeois [upper-middle class], who are stingy (as everyone knows), limit it to two kisses... ...while the working classes don't hold back, and rarely stop before giving 4 kisses. So, all of this complicates things for foreigners who never quite know how they are supposed to behave. Myself, I think that the French should publish a map of "la bise en France", indicating region by region and social class by social class... ...the number of kisses one is supposed to give when traveling around in France. In my opinion, it would be as useful for the natives as for the tourists.

Video Details

Duration: 3 minutes and 54 seconds
Country: France
Language: French (France)
Genre: None
Views: 2,783
Posted by: dhanna on Nov 30, 2009

Video in French with English subtitles

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