Monday, June 14, 2004

They Kiss in the Streets

Last summer, the shelves in French bookstores were buckling under the weight of new books on Franco-American relations. There was American journalist Ted Stanger's Sacrés Français!, Guy Millière's "What Bush Wants," André Glucksmann's West versus West, Jean-François Revel's "Anti-American Obsession." And those are just the ones I can remember off hand.

The publishing house Cherche Midi also published a little volume called Our Friends the French, which was a manual for use by American soldiers in post-war occupied France and was intended to smooth over strained relations by explaining cultural differences. Even now it has a very high sales ranking (569) at

Interestingly enough, the original pamphlet, available in its entirety here, had a somewhat less gracious title: "112 Gripes about the French." Gripe number 62 is:
"They kiss right in the open - in the streets."

This always startles Americans - at first.

Kissing on both cheeks is the traditional French greeting between old friends.

For their love-making, the French prefer privacy, if available - just as we do.

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