How to Greet a French Person (The Right Way!)

Monday, June 30, 2014

If there's one thing I've learned from being in Europe, it's that Americans are awkward. I'm including myself in this statement by the way. How many times have you been to a party and went to hug someone when they went to kiss your cheek, or maybe when you went to shake their hand and they went to give you a hug? It's uncomfortable, no denying it, so let's all be like the French and greet with a kiss!

In France it is simple as this: you kiss or you shake hands. At first I felt so uncomfortable by the entire thing. Am I going to go the wrong direction? Do I actually kiss them or just make the noise? Who do I kiss and whose hand do I shake? I more or less should have been asking myself why I think so much.

Here is how it works for both men and women--


Close friends/family:
The thought of men kissing men automatically leads Americans to assume the person is gay. Mathieu kisses his closest guy friends on the cheek when he sees them. This shocked me every time for two years straight, because it was such a cultural thing. If they have a girlfriend with them you kiss the girlfriend as well even if you don't know her, just out of respect.

If the man you are greeting is an acquaintance you shake hands. If the woman is an acquaintance you kiss her.


This is pretty much cake for girls; the women kiss everyone hello from right to left.

So here's when men and women shake hands-- while greeting a professional (ex. teacher, lawyer, doctor), for business meetings in the workplace, and at times when you meet an elderly person.

Another exception is the direction. In some regions of France such as Languedoc-Roussillon they go from left to right. Also, you will often find that in the north of France they kiss four times instead of two. All you really have to do is step aside and watch someone first then just go with it when it is your turn. Otherwise, just let the French person lead you.

What I find the most funny is that because I'm American several people will greet me with a hand shake no matter what. Most of them know that we hug or shake hands because of American films so they get nervous to kiss us. Imagine if they knew about the uncomfortable butts-out halfway hug, then they'd really feel nervous.

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