Kissing and Shaking in France

Vernon Coleman

The French do a lot of kissing. An English friend of ours called Richard works as an editor in a publishing office with nine other people – all French. Each morning all the employees have to kiss one another. `It is nearly time to go for lunch by the time we all get through this complicated but essential ritual,' says Richard. `After the kissing is done all the women have to go off to repair their lipstick. There is no air kissing in France. These are proper kisses.'

Kissing is now a global phenomenon.

Outside France, it is mwah mwah kissing that is fashionable.

In Austria, Hungary, Spain and Sweden two kisses are considered de rigeur.

In the USA and Britain, the two kiss greeting has become popular.

Egypt, Russia, Belgium, Holland and Switzerland are all three kiss countries.

But the whole kissy kissy thing started in France.

Standard French kissing (as practised in the French provinces) has for years involved three moves: a kiss on the left cheek, a kiss on the right cheek and finally a kiss on the left cheek again.

The de luxe French kiss, as practised in Paris, adds a final right cheek kiss to this barrage of osculatory activity.

So that’s four kisses.

In addition to kissing one another a great deal, the French love shaking hands. Another friend of ours, a young Dutchman who works in a rather formal Parisian bank, tells us that shaking hands takes up to an hour every morning. As they arrive at the bank, each person must shake hands with everyone else. Since there are 17 people in the office where he works this means that each person must shake hands with 16 other people.

`One or two also kiss each other,' says our Dutch friend. `They usually do the kissing after the formal shaking.'

When we visit our usual supermarket in Paris the manager comes over to greet us and shake hands. (We confess that we quite like this. It makes us feel wanted.)

I’m pleased to report that he has not, as yet, tried to kiss me.

The French even shake hands when they are in informal situations.

We once sat on a beach in the South of France and watched in amazement as two groups of semi-naked people spent ten minutes shaking hands with one another.

Taken from Secrets of Paris- Vernon Coleman’s wry and very personal look at Paris and the Parisians.

Secrets of Paris, selected as ‘Book of the Month’ by French’ magazine is available as an ebook on Amazon.

‘Is it travel writing or reference? Actually, it cleverly manages to combine both. Before you’ve finished reading I guarantee you’ll be planning a visit. ‘Secrets of Paris’ gives you just that – an insight into Parisian life, packed with local and personal anecdotes, and historical and socio-political information. This isn’t just a trite travel book but a readable, funny and intelligent guide to what to do and what not to do and see in the city. Imagine getting top tips from a trusted friend who has lived in Paris for a few years.’ – French magazine.

‘A witty series of observations about life in Paris. Coleman writes amusingly about flowers, the elderly, notaires, zebra crossings, hotels and almost anything else you can think of. Hugely entertaining.’ – Destination France

‘Funny and enormously readable. A sparkling introduction to Paris and the French.’ – Greenock Telegraph

Copyright Vernon Coleman 2017

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