The kiss on the cheek or ‘bise’ is common in France. People usually ‘faire la bise’ upon greeting their friends, coworkers, acquaintances, or even strangers. However, for foreigners it could be stressful determining whether a greeting deserves a ‘bise’ and how many kisses we should do.
To decide whether you should ‘bise’ upon greeting someone, you need to think about your relationship with the person you are greeting. Are they a close friend or someone you barely know? Do you speak formally or informally with them? If you are speaking informally, you would be close enough to ‘bise’. This gesture is most common between two women or a man and a woman. Two men who are very close may ‘faire la bise’ also.
If you already know who to kiss, now you have to consider in what part of France are you to know how many kisses you should do. Below, there is a graphic about that.
Bill Rankin of Cardical Cartography put together a map of greeting etiquette based on French web survey: www.combiendebises.free.fr. Each administrative district in France is shaded based on the proportion of people in that region that voted for each kiss-number in the survey. Northern France is dominated by four-kiss whereas in Britanny one kiss is enough. People in Montpellier think a third kiss is necessary while in Corsica, almost 20 percent of the population said that 5 kisses are appropriate.
However, this survey doesn’t ask every single person in France, this is only based on survey respondents.