Kiss like the French do

I experienced my first kiss on Saturday.  She was a stunning woman of Spanish descent. Her slender torso was always in perfect posture. Her face, covered in sun specks and distinguished by her cheekbones, was framed by long brown hair. She spoke only French and Spanish.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not talking about tongue-to-tongue French kissing. (Actually, my first experience with that sort of French kiss wasn’t nearly as pleasant — my first boyfriend, grade 6, in a game of spin the bottle).

I digress. The kind of French I mean, to kiss on one cheek and then the other, is known as faire la bise in France. For the French, this is a customary way of saying hello and goodbye to a friend or family member, or greeting someone introduced by a mutual friend. Mine was the latter.

For my first experience of faire la bise, I was nervous. I had been introduced to this woman in Paris by a very distant relative (my grandfather’s cousin’s daughter), who had been kind enough let me bunk with her for a few days. There wasn’t anytime to decide if I was going to engage. To avoid any embarrassment, I just had to.  The last thing I’d want to do – and I would assume many people who travel feel the same – is embarrass myself in front of the locals by messing up in my execution of a local custom.

Since I’ve been in France, I’ve seen this greeting exchanged between women, men, men and women, and children.  Regardless of the exchange, there’s nothing sexual about it.

I leaned in, and kissed one cheek and then the other – quick and painless. And quite frankly, I liked it. I couldn’t wait to try it again. I had felt an immediate closeness with this person. It was like I skipped the awkward shy part of meeting someone new and we could go on to being acquaintances, at least.