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Which cheek? How many? The truth about bises in France

Website reveals regional differences for common form of greeting

The bise is a common French greeting used with friends and family Pic: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

It turns out the French are as confused as the rest of us as to how many times to do la bise and which cheek to kiss.

Fortunately, a website has collated data from across the French departments – and has revealed regional differences in the number of kisses.

On you can hover your cursor over a department to find out what people from there have said they do – and you can click to add your own experiences.

Up to five kisses

According to the website, people in Finistère, Brittany, are the least generous with their bises, preferring to give just one peck on the cheek, as British people sometimes do with close family.

Two kisses - one on each cheek - is the most common greeting, according to the site - but in parts of the south and south-west, three kisses are favoured, while in some departments it is four, such as in some areas to the south-east of the capital, like the Yonne and Aube, though there is a sizeable minority who do four in many parts of northern France.

As for five kisses, no area has a majority that do it, but some people clearly favour it in areas like Corsica and in the central-eastern region of Ain. 

The order of the cheeks

Slightly confusingly, it includes an option on which cheek people offer to be kissed first (as opposed to which cheek they kiss) although there is no data available to the user as of yet. In most departments there is a clear preference - but some prefer the other cheek and some go for either one, apparently randomly.

Generally, most people there present their right cheek first – in other words, from the kisser’s point of view, you kiss the left. 

In regions of the south-west, in Provence and in Corsica, the left cheek is usually presented first. 

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