Before we dive into the French kissing vocabulary, let me tell you how to avoid a super embarrassing French mistake.
- The verb to kiss in French is “embrasser”.
- The NOUN a kiss in French is “un baiser”.
- Warning: don’t use the noun as a verb … more on this below.
1 – How to Say “a Kiss” in French?
We have several ways to translate a kiss in French – because there are different kind of kisses!
- Un baiser = general for a kiss
- Un bisou = colloquial word for a kiss
Both un baiser/un bisou could be romantic (sur la bouche – on the mouth) or friendly (sur la joue – on the cheek).
- Une bise = colloquial for a kiss on the cheek (to say hi or goodbye)
2 – How to Say “to Kiss” in French?
Now let’s see how to say the verb, the action of kissing in French.
- Embrasser (verb) = to kiss
- S’embrasser (reflexive verb) = to kiss each other
- Watch out !!! baiser (verb) = used to be “to kiss”, but has switched meaning through time. Now it means to f..k
- Rouler un patin = slang = to kiss with the tongue
- Faire un smack = slang = to give a light kiss (usually on the mouth) to someone. So if you see in a French comic book “smack, smack” it means “kisses”, not smacking someone on the face :-)
Careful not to mistake the very common noun “un baiser” with the vulgar verb “baiser”.
The correct verb to use for “to kiss” is “embrasser”. If you said to someone “je vous baise”, you’d either get a huge laugh, a very embarrassed stare or… get punched in the face!
To translate I give you a kiss, I kiss you in French, say: “je t’embrasse” or “je vous embrasse”. Don’t use “baiser” as a verb!!
3 – How to Say “A French kiss” in French?
That sounds a bit redundant, but few students actually know how to say to French kiss, or a French kiss in French.
We have several ways of translating a French kiss, a tongue kiss in French.
- Un patin
- Une pelle
- Une galoche
- Un palot
They are all more or less slang. If you wanted to be proper, you’d say “embrasser avec la langue”… only a child would say that though!
Now let’s see the verb.
4 – How to say “French Kissing” in French?
To translate the verb, to French kiss or French kissing in French we also have several options. We usually use the verb “rouler” – to roll!
- Rouler un patin / une pelle / un palot
Now let’s move to practical info about kissing in France.
5 – How Many Kisses in France?
This is complicated. Most of the time, the French kiss twice, once on each cheek. But it may be up to four times depending on the region.
6 – In France, Kiss NEVER Hug
If hugging is a common greeting in the States among friends and family, French people almost never hug.
When I arrived for the first time in the States, it was so awkward to me that it actually took me about six years to feel comfortable enough to truly hug my friends!
Actually, we don’t have a proper word for “a hug” – you can say “une étreinte” but it’s kind of an old-fashioned word that describes the action of holding someone in your arm.
French men often give each other a sort of pat in the back kind of hug gesture. But it’s very short and the upper body doesn’t really touch.
If you haven’t seen someone in a long time, or are really moved for some reason, you could possibly hold him/her in your arms quickly, but it would be rare and still, it would not be exactly the same body position as an American hug.
So, in other words, no French hug comes close to the big fat hug you’d give to a good friend in the US!
7 – Kiss or Handshake in France?
Adult Frenchmen mostly shake hands: a firm, strong shake, looking into the eyes. If you are really happy to see the person, you may cover your handshake with your other hand, or put one hand on their shoulder.
Women shake hands in a professional situation, or sometimes if they don’t know each other at all (and are older), but move on to kissing very quickly, even at work among colleagues — with both genders.
In any case, you’ll receive a handshake or a kiss. People don’t just say “bonjour” without doing one or the other to go with it – more about hello in French.
So you won’t kiss or shake hands at a cash register or in a boutique, but you will shake hands if you are engaging in a relationship with someone. For example, we shake hands with contractors we hire or even interview.
This is also a question of social class, and age. The higher up in social class, the less kissing and more handshaking. In more relaxed social classes or with younger crowds, men often kiss each other. Always on the cheeks, usually twice. They may even hug a bit, but more of a “tap on the back” kind of motion, never a big American hug.
The gesture may evolve from a handshake to a kiss: you may arrive at a party and shake hands, then socialize, make friends, and get kissed when you leave.
8 – How To Kiss in France?
The kiss is more of an air kiss, but the cheeks do touch, unlike the American air kiss.
Learn more about kissing and hugging in my French Politeness masterclass.
9 – Do Frenchmen Kiss?
Frenchmen mostly shake hands: a firm, strong shake, looking into the eyes.
If you are really happy to see the person, you may cover your handshake with your other hand, or put one hand on their shoulder.
Younger Frenchmen often kiss each other. It’s also common among close friends and family members. And it’s also a question of personal preference and social class.
This is changing a lot lately though. It used to be that in the upper social class, men never kissed. Maybe within the close family, father with sons, but not always.
Now, it’s more and more common to see men of all social background exchange a friendly kiss.
10 – Do Frenchwomen Kiss?
French women shake hands in a professional situation, or if they don’t know each other at all, but move on to kissing very quickly, even at work among colleagues — with both genders.
11 – Do French Kids and Teens Kiss?
French kids usually kiss adults. They may kiss or just wave “hi” to another kid. Same goes for French teens.
In any case, when you arrive in a French home, the kid or teen will come and say “bonjour” or “bonsoir” to you. It would be considered very rude if they didn’t. They may stay with you for the social evening, or just stay for the appetizers, or directly go back to live their lives, but they will come say “hi”, introduce themselves, exchange a few polite words.
And then, French kids / teens will usually stop what they are doing to come say “au revoir” when you leave, unless it’s very late.
12 – Do All French People Kiss?
In any case, you’ll receive a handshake or a kiss.
French People don’t just say “bonjour” or “au revoir” without doing one or the other to go with it – I mean you won’t at a cash register or in a boutique, but you will shake hands if you are engaging in a relationship with someone.
For example, we shake hands with contractors we hire or even interview.
13 – Do You Have to Kiss the French?
If kissing is awkward to you, then shake hands. However, if a French person initiate a kiss, you have to be able to follow the motion. It would be really awkward if you didn’t, and make everybody feel bad. So, yes, if you have friends in France, it’s likely you’re going to get kissed. So get ready for it ☺️.
To learn how to avoid to accidentally say to someone you like that you are in love with them, here are different ways to say I love you in French.
You may also enjoy French love nicknames (with audio).
You will find more French Love Vocabulary and Valentine’s Day French Traditions in this article.
14 – Fun Video about the Typical French Kiss
Finally, here is a fun video in English about kissing in France – warning, it’s quite vulgar…
But it shows well the body position and tells you all you need to know about kissing in France!