My name is Casey and I am a hugger. I was raised in the South and I come from a long line of huggers.
Much to my dismay, however, as a student in Paris, I quickly discovered that hugs just don’t have any significant place in French society. For the longest time, I mourned the loss of this little gesture that had always been so central to communicating my affection. And, if I’m being totally honest here, I have to admit that even after living in France for almost a decade, I still find myself secretly craving hugs.
The French, you see, just don’t do hugs. The French are all about le bisous.
While handshakes do, indeed, have a place in more formal interactions, le bisous reigns supreme when it comes to greeting others in France.
And, I must say that as odd as it once felt, I have become accustomed to bisous-ing a wide array of people.
I bisous the neighbors …
I bisous my husband’s colleagues …
I bisous my mother-in-law’s topless friend on the beach …
Heck, I even bisous my American friends here in France!
I could write an entire series on the unwritten rules of les bises, any maybe I will one day, but today I want to grapple with a problem I’ve struggled with since the first time I slept over at my in-laws house: bisous and morning breath.
Not only do the French use le bisous as a way of greeting and saying goodbye, but it’s also customary to greet every person that wakes up under the same roof as you with a Bonjour and a few bisous.
So, that means that as soon as I roll out of the bed at my in-laws home or even on vacation with friends, I am immediately bombarded by people wanting to engage in the very French routine that is the morning bisous exchange.
Let’s ignore the fact that my eyes are still half closed, my hair is a hot mess, and that I haven’t even had my first cup of coffee. The bigger problem is this: I’ve been snoozing away for the past 8 hours and my breath could likely stop a clock!
You can imagine that in the beginning of my relationship with my in-laws, such a thing was a legitimate source of concern for me. I actually used to try to sneak to the bathroom to brush my teeth and run a brush through my hair before I had to greet my in-laws.
Of course, now that I’ve been with my husband- and thus with his family – for over 12 years, I’ve graduated past that and instead have adopted a very *tant pis pour vous attitude when it comes to the idea of knocking my in-laws out with my morning breath!
Instead, I now worry about the more delicate aspects of les bises, like making sure that I don’t accidentally try to start the bisous on the wrong cheek, thus ending up in a lip-lock with say my father-in-law, because yes, that has almost happened – multiple times.
Bises (see what I did there?),
*tant pis pour vous = too bad for you!