The Kiss … in France

Two French artists – August Rodin and Robert Doisneau – immortalized the *kiss*. Rodin did so with his marble sculpture, “The Kiss”. (Picture) Photographer Doisneau, who died in 1994, did so with his “Le Baisser de l’hôtel de Ville », a photograph of two Parisians (male and female) kissing in front of the Paris town […]

Two French artists – August Rodin and Robert Doisneau – immortalized the *kiss*.

Rodin did so with his marble sculpture, “The Kiss”. (Picture)

Photographer Doisneau, who died in 1994, did so with his “Le Baisser de l’hôtel de Ville », a photograph of two Parisians (male and female) kissing in front of the Paris town hall in 1950.

But what is the French people’s relationship with the *kiss*. They hand-kiss, as you know, and a great honor – and thrill – it is when a man kisses your hand: Of course, it is very “non-U” for his lips to touch your skin. And then there is also a question of how deep should the man’s bow be towards the woman whose hand he is about to kiss. Truth is: I just don’t know, so I won’t dwell on this aspect of kissing.

Instead, I will tell you about a current web survey on how many times the French kiss one another in greeting on the cheek. (By the way, they are really great kissers – cheek-kissers, I mean now.)

The survey is run by Frenchman Gilles Debunne, a researcher. His site is at http://www.combiendebises.free.fr, and he is asking his countrymen/women to tell him whether they kiss 1,2,3,4 or 5 times on the cheek.

Almost 20,000 people have so far participated. Most of them live in Paris and her region, but Parisians are not, however, the nation’s most ardent cheek-kissers.

The most ardent cheek-kissers live in the Yonne “departement”. France has 100 “departement” (this includes her overseas territories like Martinique and Guadeloupe in the Caribbean), or “counties”. A 2006 survey showed that 333,221 people lived in the Yonne. Not, therefore, a populous “departement”. In 2006, for example, 2,153,600 people lived in Paris.

The most, shall I say, “reserved” cheek-kissers, live in the Finestère “departement”. Finestère ranks 24th on the population chart with 852,418 inhabitants. The name derives from the Latin “finis terrae” – “end of earth” or “land’s end”. It is actually the most westerly part of France. It is rather cool and windy there …

Here are the results for Paris, the Yonne and Finestère.

Paris: (1894 participants)

Kisses:

2 – 1434

4 – 257

5 – 101

3 – 54

1 – 48 (this means only one kiss on one cheek)

Yonne: (83 participants)

Kisses:

4 – 59

2 – 17

5 – 3

3 – 2

1 – 2

Finestère: (653 participants)

Kisses:

1 – 349

2 – 125

4 – 102

5 – 57

3 – 20

What the survey reveals is that, in reality, most French kiss twice, or once on each cheek, but a fair number kiss four times, or twice on each cheek. A first meeting though calls for a handshake, and to kiss more than once at a formal dinner party, or when greeting your hostess or host, should they be châtelaines, is considered extremely bad manners. But how many times in a lifetime does one *dine* at a chateau?

And women kiss women and men kiss men.

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Marilyn Z. Tomlins

7 Responses

12-5-2007 at 23:57:00

Very interesting post, Marilyn! I’m fascinated to read that touching the hand with the lips is ‘non-U’. Does this also apply to lovers?
Living in a multi-cultural country, I see a lot of ‘kiss each cheek’ greetings and farewells between people of several other cultures here, and given my own varied circle of friends, am often exposed to it too. I rather like it – it seems more sincere.
As for kissing other women, it is de rigeur to ‘kiss air’ somewhere near the other woman’s cheek, though the cheeks usually make contact…

12-6-2007 at 02:34:00

That is so sad. I had visons of going to France and having men grab my hands, making them soggy with their lips. When they kiss your hands sans lips are they supposed to look up at you or not?
Now de rigeur kissing I find preferable to someone trying to grip and shake my hand. I don’t like hand shaking because I don’t know if they ever washt their hands.

Randi.

12-6-2007 at 08:09:00

I love hand-kissing … so cultured, but I do not like cheek kissing. One should just be able to say “Hi”.
Catherine Modin

12-6-2007 at 08:18:00

I am having a problem commenting.
Carol

12-6-2007 at 16:05:00

I don’t ever remember having my hand kissed in France, but certainly cheek kissing always happened when I went to stay with people. Shaking hands seemed to be de rigeur with most people and I found it difficult when I came to Canada as women, in particular, don’t often shake hands. As far as kissing air between women, I thought that was so you didn’t leave lipstick marks on the other woman. Friends certainly cheek kiss here and quite a lot kiss you on the mouth, both English, Germans and Romanians do that.

12-7-2007 at 08:18:00

Do the French actually kiss or just make kissing noises in the air by your ear?

And what a pity men don’t kiss women:-)

12-9-2007 at 23:27:00

Sorry, but I want my hand kissed, not kissed at. But I can see their point, after all, if a handshake makes one wonder about the personal hygiene, I’m sure a lips on hand kiss would be even worse.

Ah well, it was a nice dream.

Jody

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