My son and I are leaving our small town in southeastern United States to live for a year in a small town in southeastern France. It couldn't possibly be THAT different, right?

Friday, January 27, 2012

French kissing

I have been a French teacher for twenty-three years, and this is my second time living in France, and I have to admit that I still do not have the hang of this kissing culture.  We live in Montélimar where the custom is to kiss three times when greeting.  But when greeting whom?  That is the question!

I kiss my friends Dom and Bénédicte and their children on a regular basis.  When I met Dom's husband, though, I wasn't sure if the Dom connection was enough to mean that we should kiss so I offered a formal handshake.  However, when I met Dom's friends for the first time at her New Year's Eve party, everyone immediately went in for the kiss so I complied.

Some people kiss at work, but I cannot see any rhyme or reason to the kissing.  It appears that some kiss daily but that most kiss at the beginning of the week after not seeing each other for a whole weekend.  Some seem to kiss only after a long absence such as a holiday.  Most people do not kiss the boss, but some do.  Lots did to offer best wishes for the new year.  The American greeted the poor guy with a discipline problem! I obviously have a lot to learn!

I still have so many questions about the kissing.  Once you have kissed someone, do you always kiss?  I think that I kissed Dom's nanny once, but now we just wave.  It feels like we had an awkward first date that didn't quite work out for either of us.  On the other hand, I ran into one of the men from Dom's New Year's Eve party at the grocery store, and we kissed right there in the produce section even though we didn't have much to say to each other afterwards.

When does a relationship move from a hand shaking one to a kissing one?  I have spoken to two moms on a regular basis for a while now, and I feel like they expect us to kiss when we meet at the kids' school, but I always hang back unsure what to do.  Who makes the first move?  

If you just kissed someone to say hello, do you kiss as you are saying goodbye?  That's a lot of kissing in a short amount of time some days.

I used to think that men did not kiss unless they were in the same family.  That must vary from region to region or just from person to person because I have seen plenty of men giving the bisous to friends around here.  Sam was not comfortable with that custom so he made sure to stick out his hand for a handshake as men approached.

Jed seems to feel the same way as his father about all this kissy-kissy stuff.  He wants no part of it at all.  A few times, he has been surprised by an adult and has found himself in an inescapable position, but for the most part, he is able to wiggle away from all admirers.  Bénédicte has told him that all she wants is ONE kiss before he leaves for America.  I 've told her not to hold her breath!    

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