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Eight simple rules for mastering la bise (the cheek peck) while also preventing red-faced faux pas, bruised cheekbones, excess slobber and awkward encounters. Within France there are many regional variations on la bise: Four kisses are standard in some parts of the North, and three in the South. In French film circles, it's perfectly common for two straight guys to cheek-kiss each other. One surefire trick for foreigners, male and female, is to follow the lead of the French person you're greeting. The French long have been wise to the insecurities of Americans and other New World rubes who are eager to appear like sophisticated Euro air-kissers.
While the kiss may seem to Americans like a strangely intimate way to greet a total stranger, for the French it can actually serve as a distancing tactic -- a way to avoid the dreaded hug.


But at international events like Cannes, most people stick to the standard Parisian double kiss -- one on each cheek.
If he or she leans slightly forward and offers a cheek, do the same; if a hand is extended, extend yours. But a common error for the non-French is to overdo the gesture, betraying way too much eagerness. So a nonchalant smooch from Gilles the suave sales agent may just be a form of calculated flattery.
In much of Europe, an unsolicited, full-body hug feels like the ultimate invasion of personal space. To avoid unwanted nose-bumps and lip-locks, start on the right side and lead with your right cheek (see Figure A).


Just because the usher at the Palais has led you to a prime VIP seat at the Grace of Monaco premiere doesn't mean you should kiss him. As your cheeks converge, make a soft kissing sound without actually touching lips to flesh.




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