Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A kiss on the hand may be...

or, maybe not, quite continental:

"So, do you kiss once, twice, three or four times?

"When should I shake hands?"

"Which rules apply when it comes to greeting men or women? Superiors or subordinates? Colleagues or clients?"

The bad news is that their own French colleagues don't agree on a clear set of dos and definitely don'ts. So much depends on context that an easy guide is impossible.

The good news is that their own French colleagues don't agree on a clear set of rule.... are some guidelines (not rules!) for getting off to a good start.

First, don't be surprised if a physical greeting of some kind, either la bise or a handshake, is routine in your French workplaces, not just on first introduction but every morning upon arrival at work, even though this ritual may take up several minutes. ....

Look for the cues: slight leaning means that a kiss might follow. Let the French person lead the movement: don't force the extra kiss!

Shoulder movement indicates that a handshake will probably follow. Accept it with a smile. Do not crush the fingers in a Texan grip. Do not shake wildly. Look the person in the eyes as you say Bonjour.

Two kisses are the norm in Paris in most social contexts or with colleagues with whom you are friendly.

Three kisses are not as common. French from the West and French from the East both like to claim exclusivity on the three-kiss variant, but just be aware that this more common outside of Paris.

Four kisses are for teenagers and family members as well as in some upper-crust areas of Paris. Family members usually kiss twice in the morning to say hello and twice in the evening to say good-bye (so as to arrive at a four-kiss quota per day).

A single kiss in France is considered more intimate and reserved for your spouse or lover.

Five kisses means you're probably in trouble!

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