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CULTURE

Bretons defend right to give just one French kiss

The greeting of kissing twice on the cheek is synonymous with French culture but not everyone in France likes the ritual. A movement in Brittany has launched a campaign to defend their custom of giving just one peck on the cheek, which they say is under threat from the Gallic double kiss.

Bretons defend right to give just one French kiss
French kissing on the cheeks. It's not popular everywhere in France. Photo: Simon Blackley/AFP

The French have always been big on kissing but in some parts of France it has gone too far, according to the locals.

The Gallic greeting ritual of kissing twice, or even three or four times, on the cheek, known in France as “faire la bise” may be the norm in most of the country but not in Brittany, where the locals are fed up by the invasion of multiple pecking.

Purists have formed a new Breton association in the city of Brest, in western France, and launched a Facebook campaign in defense of “the single kiss”.

The group GRUBUB, which stands for the "Group for the Rehabilitation of the Single Kiss", was founded due to the “alarm” over “the exponential growth of the double kiss”.

“In recent months and years this barbaric practice has taken a foothold in the city of Brest. It is difficult to know why and who is spreading this insidiously dangerous practice,” the group says in a statement on their website.

“But it is not too late to react. Together we can reverse this trend,” they say.

In a call to arms on its website GRUBUB is urging the residents of Brest to spread the word about their campaign and "to refuse the second kiss".

With tongue firmly in their cheek the group insiststhey are not reactionary or political "even if they know this is one of the most important issues of our time".

As this excellent map from Le Parisien newspaper shows, different regions in France have different customs when it comes to kissing. The department of Finistère, which is home to Brest, along with Deux-Sèvres in the Poitou-Charentes region.

However in the east of France and part of Provence, it’s all about the double kiss, that should start with the left cheek. Over in the Massif-central region of central France locals go back round for a third kiss.

And the tradition in parts of northern and western France like Normandy and the Vendée (see map), as well as departments to the east of Paris like Marne and Aube, the locals will carry on pecking until they get to four kisses.

And why do the French do it?

“It’s a sign of recognition,” Dr Philippe Brenot a psychiatrist and anthropologist told Le Parisien newspaper.

“Most young people share kisses a lot among themselves. It is their way of saying I recognize you in my sphere of friends,” he said.

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CULTURE

Asterix: Five things to know about France’s favourite character

Asterix is hitting the box offices again, so to celebrate here's a look at France's most treasured hero.

Asterix: Five things to know about France's favourite character

If you have walked past a bus stop anywhere in France in recent weeks, then you have likely run into film posters advertising Asterix and Obelix: The Middle Kingdom.

Starring high-profile French actors Marion Cotillard and Vincent Cassel, France’s film industry is hoping that this film, capitalising on France’s nostalgic relationship with the comic series “Asterix” will bring box office success.

The Asterix comic book series was first published in 1959, and tells the story of a small Gallic village on the coast of France that is attempting to defend itself from invaders, namely the Romans. Asterix, the hero of the series, manages to always save the day, helping his fellow Gauls keep the conquerors at bay.

As the beloved Gaulish hero makes his way back onto the big screen, here are five things you should know about France’s cherished series:

Asterix is seen as the ‘every day’ Frenchman

“Asterix brings together all of the identity-based clichés that form the basis of French culture”, Nicolas Rouvière, researcher at the University of Grenoble-Alps and expert in French comics, told AFP in an interview in 2015.

READ MORE: Bande dessinée: Why do the French love comic books so much?

The expert wrote in his 2014 book “Obelix Complex” that “the French like to look at themselves in this mirror [of the Asterix series], which reflects their qualities and shortcomings in a caricatured and complacent way”.

Oftentimes, the French will invoke Asterix – the man who protected France from the Roman invaders – when expressing their resistance toward something, whether that is imported, American fast food or an unpopular government reform.

The front page of French leftwing newspaper Libération shows President Emmanuel Macron as a Roman while Asterix and his team are the French people protesting against pension reform.

The figure of ‘a Gaul’ is a popular mascot for French sports teams, and you’ll even see people dressed up as Asterix on demos. 

A man dressed as Asterix the Gaul with a placard reading “Gaul, Borne breaks our balls” during a protest over the government’s proposed pension reform, in Paris on January 31, 2023. (Photo by JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP)

Asterix is the second best-selling comic series

The series has had great success in France since it was first launched in 1959, originally as Astérix le Gaulois. It has also been popular across much of Europe, as the series often traffics in tongue-in-cheek stereotypes of other European nations – for example, caricaturing the English as fans of lukewarm beer and tasteless foods.

Over the years, Asterix has been translated into more than 100 languages, with at least 375 million copies sold worldwide.

It remains the second best-selling comic series in the world, after the popular manga “One Piece”.

There is an Asterix theme park 

The French love Asterix so much that they created a theme park, located just 22 miles north of Paris, in the comic series’ honour in 1989.

The park receives up to two million visitors a year, making it the second most visited theme park in France, after Disneyland Paris. With over 40 attractions and six themed sections, inspired by the comic books, the park brings both young and old visitors each year. 

READ MORE: Six French ‘bandes dessinées’ to start with

The first French satellite was named after Asterix

As Asterix comes from the Greek word for ‘little star’, the French though it would be apt to name their first satellite, launched in 1965 after the Gaulish warrior.

As of 2023, the satellite was still orbiting the earth and will likely continue to do so for centuries to come.

Asterix’ co-authors were from immigrant backgrounds

Here’s become the ‘ultimate Frenchman’, but both creators of the Asterix series were second-generation French nationals, born in France in the 1920s to immigrant parents.

René Goscinny created the Asterix comic series alongside illustrator Albert Uderzo. Goscinny’s parents were Jewish immigrants from Poland. Born in Paris, René’s family moved to Argentina when he was young and he was raised there for the majority of his childhood. As for Albert Uderzo, his parents were Italian immigrants who settled in the Paris region.

Goscinny unexpectedly died at the age of 51, while writing Asterix in Belgium. From then on, Uderzo took over both writing and illustrating the series on his own, marking Goscinny’s death in the comic by illustrating dark skies for the remainder of the book.

In 1985, Uderzo received one of the highest distinctions in France – the Legion of Honour. Uderzo retired in 2011, but briefly came out of retirement in 2015 to commemorate the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists who were murdered in a terror attack by drawing two Asterix pictures honouring their memories.

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