Last tuesday, I published part 1 of this article.
I receive lots of questions about “Should I kiss or shake hands?”, and I usually refer people to the free video Present yourself in France available when you subscribe to Comme une Française newsletter (it is FREE).
However, last week, Natasha from India sent me a very very good question. I’ll rephrase it like this: “How do you explain the fact that some people shake your hand one day and kiss you the next time you meet?”. You impress me girl! First by noticing it. Then by asking about it.
Here is my answer. Free of course. You can get much more in the module “Chat in France” of Moving to France.
Should I kiss or should I shake hands? The basics
First things first. Let’s review the basics.
As a woman you will (whether it is with men or women):
Shake hands in a formal context: at the office, with elderly people, with the teachers, at church, at a formal party…
When you use “vous” and have to dress up and well-behave, you shake hands.
Kiss on an informal event: with friends, with friends of friends, with children and teenagers, any not work-related, not formal meeting.
When you are here to relax, with no objective in mind, you kiss.
From shaking TO kissing
What Natasha was talking about can be answered by this : when you’ve reached a certain level of proximity, you will drop a layer of formality. And go from “Oh my god I have to well behave and show respect” to “I like this person, we are now on a friendship level”.
This applies to many relations, especially:
- The teacher at the end of the year: you used to have a student-teacher relationship, which is now “over” as you have your degree. He is proud of you and happy of your success. He will kiss you at your graduation day. It can also drop to “tu” after some time if you keep in touch and the age difference is under 20 years.
- The boss at the end of your contract: you used to have a boss-employee relationship, which is now “over” as you are retiring or leaving (not fired or resigning!). He was happy to work with you. And greets you with a kiss on both cheeks.
- The in-laws at the end of your first meeting: both of you are very stressed and formal. After the first meeting check, you are nice and friendly, and perfect for their son. They will kiss you when you go.
- Friends of friends at the end of a party: you didn’t know each other at the beginning, got on very well, and at the end of the party, you are on a more relaxed level. This can surprisingly apply to very formal situations sometimes.
Note: This very French example comes from my boyfriend to whom I talked to about this brilliant article idea.
- Your brand new boyfriend: Em… That’s another kind of kiss…
Action: Write down the names of 5 persons you shake hands with and 5 you kiss in France. Then find the reason why you greet them like this: age? work-related relationship? friends? family? neighbours? Circle the exceptions: colleagues you kiss, family you shake hand with… This will help you clear your mind about how to greet in France
Share it: I know you have 3 friends who wonder “Should I kiss or shake hands with Thomas and Lucie?”. Send them the article NOW!
Have fun in France!