**To kiss or not to kiss
As you know the French kiss when they greet people they know and don't know. I'd say in the last year I can't remember the last time I shook hands with someone in France. When I was an exchange student in Besançon in '98 I hung out with a lot of exchange students from different European countries and some Asian countries. We never did les bises. We shook hands if we met someone new. I felt comfortable with this because this is common practice in the States. My second stint in France in 2000 (the year I met J) I started to hang out with more and more Frenchies and still instinctively held out my hand when I met people. I learned from J that handshaking really isn't done especially at our age. It used more when you greet older people for the first time or business contacts, colleagues, etc... Everyone our ages does les bises even good guy friends will instinctively gives kisses when they greet each other.
Tonight, we went to a apéritif dinatoîre* at our friend, Nath's apt, and comme d'hab* I was the only Anglo there. About an hour into the conversation or so someone realized that I had used a le instead of a la and a de instead of a du (because those of us who speak French or have studied know that this just happens sometimes). The guy I was talking to came to me while I was filling my champagne glass in the kitchen to ask me in a low voice if I were French? Mais non! I responded. He just stood back on his heels and look at me. We had that oh-so-familiar exchange of where I was from and Comment ca se fait que tu parle si bien le francais et patati et patata* and he stated that he thought all Americans only shook hands and were not comfortable kissing. This is exactly what he said. Well, of course I set him straight and said we love to kiss but it's just a question of habit that's all! We don't greet one another with kisses more often with handshakes or hugs, if we know the person well. I love little culture exchanges like this.
J said that I used to do the cutest thing I would stick my hand out to shake and pull the person towards me slightly to do les bises. It must of been in my transitional phase from hand shaking instinctively to doing les bises naturally.
*Apéritif Dînatoire - Before dinner drinks with heavy hors-d'oeuvres that take the place of dinner, very social setting and mobility for invitees to mingle, drink et manger!
*Comme d'hab- or Comme d'habitude, meaning like usual or usually.
*Patati et Patata- could be interpreted as how we'd use blah, blah, blah or and so on.