It was so confusing when I was in France: do you kiss anyone on the cheek or just friends; two pecks or three (the further south, the greater the frequency of the tri-peck). I usually defaulted to a handshake, but after a fabulous lunch with tons of great wine at a chateau near Bordeaux where I had unlimited Internet access for the first time in two weeks, I gave the dude a bi-peck at the train station – we had just met, and he was a little taken aback (that’s me and the dude at a wedding in Montreal a couple of months later 2007, right, below; look at that suit).
Now, according to Associated Press, the French tradition of "la bise," the cheek-to-cheek peck that the French use to say hello or goodbye, has come under pressure from a globalized threat: swine flu.
Some French schools, companies and a Health Ministry hotline are telling students and employees to avoid the social ritual out of fear the pandemic could make it the kiss of death, or at least illness, as winter approaches.
For kids in two schools in the town of Guilvinec, in France’s western Brittany region, the first lesson of the year came from local officials: no more cheek kisses to teachers or other students.
The national government isn’t calling for a ban. But the Health Ministry, on its swine flu phone hotline, recommends that people avoid "close contact — including shaking hands and giving the bise."