When I first came to France, I was surprised by the way people greet each other. Where I come from, in Argentina, to say hi, we also do “la bise”, but only on one cheek. In France, doing only one “bise” seems to be an intimate and quite private move. Here, you can’t do one “bise” to everyone! Since I was meeting many foreigners in France, I have realised that “la bise” is definitely not the most globally shared gesture. When I once tried to do “la bise” to Japanese or Iranian girls who had just arrived to France, they glowered at me! And yet, I had met them a few times before this attempt… Since then, I have often been discussing the cultural codes hidden under “la bise” with my fellow foreigners. We speak a lot about national differences. Local habits mean a lot about our social relationships, about the way we see the other sex, but also about the hierarchical distance at work for example. Only shaking hands with women to say “hi”, I must say that it’s not really my thing. I am Latino, I like closeness. So, I’m really into the French habit of doing two, three or even four “bises”!
To go further
- “Je suis venu”, “j’ai été surpris”, “je me suis rendu”… are constructions in the passé composé. Do you know when to use this tense? Do you sometimes get confused with imparfait? Here are a few exercises to train.
- “Lancer ou jeter un regard noir” means being furious at someone. In French, there are expressions with colors. Test your knowledge and improve it with exercises and a puzzle!
Discovering more about the subject
- How do people say “hi” elsewhere in the world? In the amazing series “Les bonjours du monde” by Arte Creative, you will see how much the relation to the body and to others changes depending on the country… Discover the difference between a Malian, an Afghan, a Zambian and a Japanese greeting! If you’re not done with the French bise, you can see more of them in here!
Ensemble en France offers you to share Almamy’s experience and his discovery of the French “bise”
Watch the full video and many other interviews of foreigners on French cultural habits on Ensemble en France’s MOOC