Posts Tagged 'kiss'

On Kissing Terms

This past weekend I had a Paris breakthrough: I am now on kissing terms with the owner of my corner café.

Now before you start imagining all sorts of torrid things, let me remind you I am speaking simply of the bise (nothing like the make-out session I witnessed at the Musee d’Orsay).

Still, it’s always a minor victory when you’re finally accepted into certain bastions of French society; when you are granted entrance like an old friend.

I feel lucky to have a corner café that is always open – on Sundays, holidays, even in this ghost town of August for crissakes. As a former New Yorker used to everything being open 24/7, this tiny reminder of an everyday establishment you can rely on does my heart good.

As it is, literally, on my corner, I pass Café Lino all of the time – when I go off to do my shopping, take the metro, or head off to the market. I’m not an everyday café patron, but often enough that I’m recognizable.

My view from my writing table; a slow afternoon at Cafe Lino

Over the last few months, the owner (I think he’s the owner, at least, maybe just a proprietorial-seeming barman) has been giving me the eyes. (Not those kind of eyes, though who knows, right?) We’ve gotten to the point where we always smile and wave when I pass by.

On Saturday night as I returned from a yummy dinner of crepes, a little Brazilian concert was winding down at the café. The owner was strumming his guitar and the few clients were gathered around singing. The warm, red glow that emanates from the interior only enhanced the convivial atmosphere. Wow, I’m in France, I thought. (After four years, I still have these moments; probably always will).

I was this close to going and joining in, especially as I caught the owner’s eye. But the circle seemed a bit too cozy. Sometimes I manage the solo entry well; sometimes I do not.

So I just walked home.

The next day, I came for a tea and I was greeted like an old friend. Why didn’t you come in last night? Denis wanted to know. You doing ok? Ca va? And it was obvious we were going in for the bise, like it was the most natural thing in the world. Two air kisses on the cheek.


I’m sure those more social than me have already experienced this moment many times before. But me, this is my first time of crossing over to the bise with the people in a local establishment. Sure, nice small talk, even smiles. But the bise! As if I belonged here.

I better watch out or soon I will be kissing all of Paris. And we know that I do have my own issues with the bise. (This one was perfect, though. No complaints!)

Addendum: Um, the owner has asked me for my phone number, which I kindly declined to give. Awkwardness has managed to be avoided – thank goodness as I come here to write – but kind of changes the original dynamic, huh? Well, I am still proud. The waitresses are nice to me, too. Even the new one who had been scowling at me at the beginning of the summer. I’ll just wait another 2 years for them to start kissing me, too.

Bookmark and Share

Faux Pas Friday: La Bise, Part Deux

Boy, oh boy, did the bise ever go over big. Thanks everyone for the comments – the most ever on any post!

:: Flying kiss  ::

Kissing is obviously a hot topic, and we all have a lot to say. Merci, Partager Paris for backing me up with a similar (crude) baiser mistake. In an elevator with a good-looking French man, she announced she wanted to baiser the elevator, not lower it (baisser). “But Madame, I have not gotten to know you yet!” the cute Frenchman replied.

Many pointed out another bise pitfall: how many to give? Paris is mainly 2-kiss territory, but with my in-laws it’s more. If I complained about the round of bises before, don’t get me started when everyone gets four!

General agreement about possible mishaps depending on which way you start. I tend to veer right (kissing, not politically!), but it’s good to get a sense of which side your partner is headed. If not, an awkward lip-lock lies ahead. (Or maybe that’s what you’re after. Thanks, Adam, for sharing your brother’s story of an old woman taking things into her own hands: grabbed the face and laid a big one on him. You go, old lady! That may be me someday).

Karin requests a pronunciation guide with this Friday series, but I’m afraid phonetics is my failing. I can’t even pronounce my own husband’s name (pesky French ‘r’ in the middle!) But there’s no doubt that wrong pronunciation causes many a faux pas.

Like Rachelle saying “ass” (cul) when really she meant “cool”.

Or Montpellier Miss’ several slip-ups, though I think they’re just sweet. Like ordering “un pain aux raison (bread with reason) instead of raisins (raisins) at the boulangerie.”

Isn’t the bread in France wonderful? How much more awesome would it be if it also had reason!

Have a great weekend y’all. If it be not faux-pas less, at least let it be fun.

Faux Pas Friday: Beware the Bise!

Honey, ‘come take me in your arms’! Oh, just give me a ‘hug’!


I was horrified to learn in my first French course that there existed no word for “hug.”
“But embrasser?” we naively asked. “Surely that must mean to embrace?”

“No,” our kind teacher informed us, “embrasser means to kiss.”

“So this,” we said, wrapping our arms around ourselves. “What do you call this?”
Surely a simple demonstration would quickly clear up the matter.

“Prendre quelqu’un dans les bras”, Madame Julie said.

“Come on,” we snorted. “You must have a word for ‘taking someone in your arms.’” French is supposed to be lyrical – what’s with this unwieldy phrase?

Calin, she offered, but I have since gotten wise to that, too. A calin is a cuddle, and a cuddle does not a hug make or vice versa (though both are nice).

This should have served as (one of) my warning(s) about France – what kind of place doesn’t have a word for hug?

The missing word is not the only cause for concern. It’s missing the hugs, period. I grew up on big bear hugs. Hugs are used as greeting, comfort, congratulations, and more where I’m from. Getting used to la bise was a whole other story.

Ah yes, la bise. After 3 1/2 years I still find la bise awkward: Do I touch your cheek or don’t I? Must I make a kissing noise to accompany the air kiss? I’ve moved in too close, my face is too far. No matter how many times I do it, I never get it right.

Readers Shannon and Piglet in France also did not get something right: one kissed a banker, the other a priest.

I feel their pain. In a country where you can kiss even your colleagues, and every entrance and exit you make is a half hour marathon of giving la bise, one’s natural tendency might be to give everyone a kiss. Apparently even your financial and religious advisors.

I guess you’re not supposed to do that.

As always, I am here to make them feel better by sharing my own big bise faux pas.

There might be no word for hug, but there are many for kiss. In addition to embrasser, a bisous is a kiss. Un baiser is a kiss. But beware the latter – danger lurks!

After our first three dates, Jerome had still not made a move. Shy and sweet, he was the perfect gentleman – by that point, I was ready for him to take a step towards not being one.

Hours into date three, we’re listening to Nina Simone, drinking sweet white wine. I – eyelashes batting – finally ask, coy as can be, “so, don’t you want to kiss me?”

Only, my formulation was woefully wrong. If un baiser is a kiss, I had reasoned, baiser must mean to kiss (whoa! big leap! whatever gave me that idea?)

Well, friends, it was the wrong conclusion. Baiser means to f***.

My coy question turned instantly into a crude proposition. Reserved Jerome, however, did not let on.

“Yes, I want to kiss you,” he said correcting me (though I didn’t notice the correction). Because he did kiss me. And I melted.

Only months later did Jerome tell me what I had actually asked him. Americans really are direct, he must have thought. No doubt about it.

Shout-outs this week also to Adam for sharing how his romantic tete a tete turned into a table of 10 (deux and dix can sound awfully similar depending on whose pronouncing the words) and French teacher Marie for clearing up excite and chaude. It’s great feeling excited, but in French you better be ready to mean ‘sexually aroused.’ Now Jerome tells me I should still feel free to say excitee, but I won’t take his word for it. He’s just a little too good at keeping a straight face.

Poll: Are you more a hug person or a kiss person?
Plus: Funny faux pas always welcome. The best examples always get free shout-outs.

Bookmark and Share

paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

Share the love!

Bookmark and Share

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 3,994 other followers

Follow siondayson on Twitter

easyJet Holidays Paris City Break
Expat Blog website
Expat Women website
Protected by Copyscape Plagiarism Checker
Worldette – Ignite your travel life, make a difference, have fun!
© 2010-18 Copyright Sion Dayson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

%d bloggers like this: