Kissing goodbye to ‘la bise’? Coronavirus threatens traditional French greeting

French government health officials have advised against greeting people with a kiss amid the coronavirus outbreak.
French government health officials have advised against greeting people with a kiss amid the coronavirus outbreak. © TF1 / FRANCE 24

It is used to greet friends, family and colleagues across France, but the traditional ‘bise’ – a kiss on each cheek – may now be a health hazard, with government officials advising against it amid the coronavirus epidemic. 

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"I have formally advised against the practice of handshaking, the reduction of social contact in a physical manner, and that would include the practice of 'la bise',” French Health Minister Olivier Véran told a press conference on Saturday.

The reaction to the advice has been mixed. While some have embraced it, others have found the habit of a lifetime difficult to give up.

"This morning, when I went to kiss a colleague, he said ‘no, we can't shake hands anymore’. I didn't shake his hand, but I kissed him anyway,” one Parisian office worker, Gaëlle Fessler, told AFP.

France has so far seen a total of 204 confirmed coronavirus cases with four deaths.

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