Language in the blood is all about blending in; to live amongst humans as a vampire without being detected. Cameron also successfully pretends to be French on occasion. I’m doing very badly at pretending to be French; I’m too tall, too blond and too pale to be passed off as a local. If anyone had any doubts still, they are soon put to rights by hearing me speak.
Local etiquette can be tricky; one of the things I dreaded most about moving here was the ‘Bisou’; the polite peck on the cheeks that the French greet each other with. Having lived in Scotland for many years, I’d grown quite accustomed to greeting without physical contact, or at worst a handshake. In the Netherlands we greet friends and family with 3 kisses, but here complete strangers plant their lips on my face!
The custom varies from region to region. In and around Monaco it is two kisses, but if you go north it can be three or even four kisses. Not knowing of forgetting can lead to some awkward moments. I have learned over time that people here are aware that the Anglo-Saxons are uncomfortable with the ’Bisou’ and if I stick my hand out and keep my distance, they are not insulted. If you get introduced to a colleague or mutual acquaintance you have to be quick though in holding out your hand otherwise you receive two kisses before you know it. (Must find dark room to rock back and forwards in to hug myself out of that traumatic experience!)
At work, thankfully, we have done away with any physical contact. The greeting includes a bonjour, a privet or a ni hau and that’s it; ready to start the day in a friendly way without making anyone feel uncomfortable. At my husband’s work however, the ‘Bisou’ has been taken to a whole other level. Once you arrive in the office, you go around all your colleagues and either shake their hand or kiss them. A fabulous way to waste a good portion of the workday!
I will say this for the custom, especially with flu season approaching. Viruses are easier transmitted by handshakes than by a kiss on the cheek, so maybe they are on to something after all.