IN PICTURES: How to greet French people in the Covid-19 era

France's iconic cheek kiss greeting has been ruled unhygienic by the country's leaders, so with that and the handshake both out how are French people greeting each other these days?

IN PICTURES: How to greet French people in the Covid-19 era
All photos: AFP


This is officially unhygienic and you shouldn't do it. In normal times the handshake is more prevalent in France than in some anglophone countries, where it's often seen as for formal situations only.

But for now, its a no-no. Here's what French health minister Olivier Véran had to say, way back in February: “From now on we recommend that people avoid shaking hands.”

Unlike many of France's other health rules there is no fine in place if you get caught shaking hands, but it's better to avoid.


La bise, the distinctive French double, treble or quadruple (depending on where you are) cheek kiss has also been ruled out under social distancing rules.

In fact the French health ministry has even made a series of short adverts that remind people that they should not be using the kiss greeting.


Some French people, especially older ones, are finding this quite a difficult habit to break and in some parts of the country you will still see people doing it. But it's officially frowned upon.

READ ALSO Kiss off: Why coronavirus could spell the end of 'la bise' in France


Elbow bump

Elbows have taken on a new importance in public life – you're supposed to cough or sneeze into them, open doors with them and they're also an officially approved greeting method.

The historic EU economic bailout plan was sealed with an elbow bump between Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel and above is pictured French Prime Minister Jean Castex greeting a member of the public with an elbow bump.

Foot bump

This doesn't seem to have caught on as much as the elbow bump and it's pretty hard to find a picture of a politician doing it, but nonetheless foot bumping is a hygiene-approved greeting gesture.

Fist bumps

Already in use pre-Covid by some people of course, the fist bump doesn't really fit with hygiene rules as it still forms hand-to-hand contact. But unlike the handshake it's never been officially ruled out by the French government.


This seems to have become the official greeting for formal occasions when an elbow bump might seem a little too casual.

It's become the go-to for world leaders meeting each other, as French president Emmanuel Macron demonstrates here while meeting Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez. It's maybe a little formal for saying hi down the café though.


This has probably spilled over from numerous Zoom meetings, but if bumping various body parts is too complicated you can just give your companion a cheery wave before launching in to the latest gossip.


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France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

France's public health body outlined how Covid-19 rules changed starting on February 1st, including an end to compulsory self-isolation after a positive test result.

France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

Starting on February 1st, Covid rules relaxed in France as the country brought an end to compulsory isolation for those who test positive for the virus.

However, those travelling from China to France will still be required to agree to a random screening upon arrival and to isolate in the case of a positive Covid-19 test result. Travellers aged 11 and over coming from China must also provide a negative test result (less tan 48 hours) prior to boarding and those aged six and over must agree to wear a mask on board flights. These regulations – which was set to last until January 31st – is set to remain in place until February 15th.

The French public health body (The Direction générale de la santé or DGS)  announced the change on Saturday in a decree published in the “Journal Officiel” outlining the various ways the body will loosen previous coronavirus restrictions.

READ MORE: What Covid rules and recommendations remain for visiting France?

Those who were in contact with someone who tested positive – ie a contact cases – will also no longer be required to take a test, though the public health body stressed that both testing after contact and isolating after receiving a positive test remain recommended.

Previously, even asymptomatic people who had been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 were required to test on the second day after being notified that they were a “contact-case”.

These changes took effect on February 1st.

READ MORE: What changes in France in February 2023?

The DGS also said that website SI-DEP, which records test results, will remain in operation until June 30th, however starting in February it will only collect personal data with the express permission of the patient.

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Additionally, the French government announced that sick leave procedures for people with Covid-19 would return to normal starting February 1st – this means that those who test positive for Covid-19 now also have the three-day wait period before daily sick benefits are required to be paid, as is usually the case. Previously, people with Covid-19 could expect daily sick benefits to begin at the start of their sick leave period (arrêt maladie in French).  

READ MORE: How sick leave pay in France compares to other countries in Europe

Covid tests are still available on walk-in basis from most pharmacies are are free to people who are fully vaccinated and registered in the French health system. Unvaccinated people, or visitors to France, have to pay up to a maximum of €22 for an antigen test of €49 for a PCR test. 

If you recently tested positive for Covid-19 in France – or you suspect you may have contracted Covid-19 – you can find some information for how to proceed here.

In explaining the changes that began at the start of February, the French public health body also noted a drop in Covid-19 infections in the past month. As of January 30th, approximately 3,800 people in France had tested positive in the previous 24 hours for the coronavirus – which represents a decrease from the averages of 20,000 new cases per day about one month ago.