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Life around the world

Kissing strangers

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Cultural differences can take many forms. I have noticed many discrepancies in the French culture compared to English culture, from the way people dress, to their attitude towards food, to what they do for fun. One thing that has struck me in particular in France is people’s personal interactions with each other, and the way they differ from those in the UK. 

Firstly, it’s the kissing - everyone kisses each other on the cheek. It’s a greeting, instead of saying ‘hi,’ or ‘hello,’ like we would in England, they give each other a kiss on each cheek. Often, the kiss is a substitute for words, and the whole exchange is a silent affair. Everyone participates in the kissing ritual; the young, the old, male, female, strangers and friends. I kiss my friends, I’ve been kissed on the cheek by people I’ve just met, I kiss the teachers at the school, and even if I’m in a hurry, I am still expected to make time to give an acquaintance a quick kiss on the cheek as I rush past them. I don’t mind it – in fact, I quite like it, I think that it quickly turns strangers into acquaintances, and acquaintances into friends.

Another thing that I’ve noticed is that people here in France are much more open with people they don’t know. For example, in England, you would generally only talk to a stranger on public transport only if completely necessary, perhaps, for example, to ask where the bus stops next. However, on long train journeys people have often stuck up conversation with me for no reason other than to have a chat to pass the time, and I really enjoy being able to share, even for a brief period of time, a part of my life and my story with someone else. In fact, I find people to be less reserved when it comes to talking to strangers in general; a few days ago I got talking to a woman in the fruit section of a supermarket as she gave me her opinions the benefits and disadvantages of oranges grown in Spain! 

Whatever stereotypes there may be about French people, I have found that they are, for the most part, open and at ease talking to strangers, which makes me too, more comfortable with them, and ultimately, more willing to practice my French!


How do you greet people in your country? What would a visitor to your country find unusual? 


Elsa007's picture
Elsa007 7 July, 2015 - 09:10

We bow each other as a greeting.
When I was younger, kids in my family had a habit to give a kiss on dad's cheek before going to bed! Now? No chance...!

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efty's picture
efty 26 December, 2014 - 08:43

we greet every muslims by saying assalamualaikum.but we greet hindu people by saying namashkar or aadab...... it's south asian salam is our muslim tradition

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patchyplum's picture
patchyplum 18 December, 2014 - 10:06

It's not at all strange just because we're Asians!Though we greet many with a hi!or hello! it's something normal for a small peck on the cheek..(but this is a very very unique sight seen once in a blue moon)When,it comes to the opposite gender the attitude differs.Some people find it's a friendly touch but it's quite different with adults...So,mostly we say ayubowan (though it's not used very much with the present generation except in classroom)or just greet according to the type of day..
Kissing strangers is not something practised in Sri Lanka..

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Monisa's picture
Monisa 27 November, 2014 - 17:14

We normally greet by saying 'hi', 'hello', or 'Assalamu alaikum', which means 'may peace be on you', in addition to shaking hands (by people of the same sex).
Kissing strangers is very very unusual, though we won't mind people of the same sex kiss each other on the cheeks. While it may be a normal practice in France to kiss people of the opposite gender, it's an unacceptable one in our country.

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hadia's picture
hadia 30 November, 2014 - 11:29

same thing in our country we also greet each other by saying assalm u alikum or hello or hi hey or any type of greeting kissing is not practised in our country some may do but its unusual!

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Silvermist's picture
Silvermist 29 November, 2014 - 16:14

Same here, in Sri Lanka...................I guess since this is because both countries are Asian. But we have a slight difference as in, we use the phrase "Ayubowan'" (meaning welcome in the native language and the Muslims use the same phrase" 'Assalamu alaikum' yet not very frequently)and we do shake hands with people of the opposite sex during formal meetings.
Kissing strange is unusual indeed if it is implemented here in my country and I think it's because we have a great difference between the culture of the Europeans and the Asians.

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