The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Jul 28, 2009

Spontaneous Osculation

Right. A while ago I mentioned the self-organising skills of the English - spontaneous arrangement into queues is one of the defining characteristics of these folk. Their historic rivals, the French, have a similar skill, one equally spontaneous and thoroughly subconscious.

This skill entails bisous. That is to say, kissing. Depending on which part of the country they are from, there will be two, three or four kisses on alternating cheeks. Kisses when they meet each other and kisses when they leave. Kisses for relative strangers even, but especially for friends and colleagues. A French person coming into work in the morning cannot merely go and sit at their table having grunted a greeting to the office at large. No. The French person needs to go from desk to desk kissing each colleague, making a large sociable circuit across the floor. The French person will take at least ten minutes doing this.

But the acme of perfection is achieved when a bunch of French people are about to go their separate ways after a gathering. They begin to bob and weave and kiss or hug each other without any overt planning. Entirely subconsciously, they manage to create all the possible n(n-1)/2 pairs to engage in this bonding gesture. They neatly avoid bumping heads and clashing noses. The men manage not to kiss the men. Then they all flounce away in a cloud of achievement and élan.


km said...

all the possible n(n-1)/2 pairs

Anyone else read this and think of Swine flu and its rate of propagation in France?

Fëanor said...

Those French are all in England, working in my office, and guess what? We've had swine flu galore.

C K said...

I've never figured that out, I mean the kissing part. Someone did that with my wife in the office the other day and she totally freaked out. lol.

Fëanor said...

I know exactly how she felt. I used to be quite ill at ease with the whole hugging and kissing business - the wife's family & friends having lived in the Middle-East do it all the time. But after 10 years, one can get used to anything! :-)

bint battuta said...

You mention the Middle East - and of course the added factor here is having to quickly ascertain which people of the opposite sex you should kiss on the cheek, shake hands with, smile and nod your head at, or ignore completely. Social gatherings can be stressful.

Fëanor said...

bint battuta: indeed, when I meet my in-laws' kuwaiti pals, I always wait to see whether they offer to shake hands with me or not. Esp. the women. it's like walking on egg-shells. :-)

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