Geneva / Language

The Dark Side of “La Bise”

In France, it’s normal to faire la bise, or kiss others on the cheek one, two, three, four or as many as five times (no, seriously) when greeting them. The same goes for francophone Switzerland (three kisses is the standard in Geneva, for instance) but la bise means something else altogether here.

The past couple of days have been so incredibly windy that I have found myself identifying so intensely with that scene from Mean Girls when Principal Duvall makes his way through the halls of North Shore High School (in the affluent Chicagoland city of Evanston), fully of rioting girls. With a wooden bat in hand, he says, “Hell no! I did not leave the South Side for this!”

My thoughts exactly.

The bise is not only a friendly way of greeting people but also the endearing name for a spirit-breaking northern wind that makes its way from the north-east Alps to Geneva, where it is apparently at its strongest, since Geneva is situated in a narrow passage between the Jura mountains in the West and the Alps in the South and is essentially at the center of a giant wind tunnel.

The bise generally sticks around in blasts of anywhere from 3 to 9 consecutive nights. The current gusts of wind of up to 75 km/h (about 46 mph) should last until Saturday night, or so they say

Faire la bise, okay. Put up with la bise? No way!

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