By Yiming Woo
PARIS, Sept 28 (Reuters) - France's traditional "la bise" greeting - a kiss on each cheek - is slowing make a comeback as the coronavirus recedes.
Bestowed on family, friends, or anyone else in an informal setting, "la bise" was de facto banned at the height of the pandemic.
But with more than 70% of the population fully vaccinated, people can once more be seen planting what are usually just air kisses by a kissing sound on each other's cheeks.
"We had stopped in order to respect social distancing, but it's a ritual I really like," civil servant Vincent Seznec said, beer in hand, after greeting friends with a "bise."
As he is vaccinated, he could see no reason not to do it anymore.
"It's best to be vaccinated and kiss each other than not be vaccinated and not kiss each other," he said.
Parisians Anna and Carmela, after embracing and kissing each other's cheeks, said they could not agree more.
"It's a great sign of affection and welcoming the other," Anna said. "It means togetherness."
Carmela dearly missed "la bise" - especially when her 32-year old daughter stopped kissing her for fear of transmitting COVID-19.
"Ohhhhhhhhh, it was so sad," Carmela said.
Even President Emmanuel Macron, who had recommended people do not kiss or shake hands to help reduce contagion risks, can now occasionaly be seen "faire la bise".
However, several Parisians said things will never be quite the same.
For one thing, people are more selective - and it has become easier to say you do not want to kiss someone on the cheeks.
"I'm doing 'la bise' again but only to loved ones, not people I don't really know well," Natalie Bitar said.
And Elisa Mayor, a student, said that in her generation, "la bise" was already not that popular, even before COVID-19. "We rather tend to say hi from afar," she said.
But for Paris-based British comedian Paul Taylor, who shot to fame years ago with a sketch on "la bise," which he called "one of the things that annoys me most about living here," there is no doubt the comeback has started and it's here to stay.
"Of course it's back," he said. "When I do my show I ask the audience by way of applause who's done la bise since covid, the whole room applauds." (Reporting by Yiming Woo, writing by Ingrid Melander, Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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