It took me off guard at first. People whom I hardly knew, kissing me hello, one bisous per cheek whenever I see them. I’m used to extending a firm American handshake of freedom and commerce to everyone, including females, and perhaps I gentle hug to the closest of friends. But when I saw the confusion, and perhaps horror, on the faces of french girls after seeing my extended hand I knew I had to make a change. I had to adapt. It’s the only way someone can survive in a new culture, and sometimes adapting can mean survival.
I admit it was not a difficult decision.
Day-by-day I become more accustomed to bisous,bisous. It’s normal, it’s casual, to authentically greet everyone you encounter for the first time in a day, and sometimes it’s the same for saying goodbye. However, these bisous are not without their setbacks. One time I was on a bisous rampage. One morning I walked in the university to find a group of fellow female students. After undertaking my cultural duties to greet each one of them i was feeling very liberal with my bisous. Soon after I saw a female professor who I needed to talk about a class, but when I tried to bisous her she slowly moved back. I casually played it off while continuing our discussion, but I knew something was not right. You can’t go around just “bisouing” everybody.
After two months of being here I think I’ve learned how the bisous,bisous works. Perhaps, it is a part of me. It was never more evident than when I left France for the holidays. I met with a Croatian in Brussels, Belgium who told me stop all of these French things and to give her a big hug. When in Holland I learned to greet with three kisses, which was ok, but seemed a bit too much for my newly found French customs. As soon as I came within the Vendee boundaries I knew I was home. Everything made sense again. One bisous, equally placed to each cheek, followed or preceded by a friendly “bonjour”. My cheeks will never be cold again.