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-   -   Correct greetings in Paris (https://www.fodors.com/community/europe/correct-greetings-in-paris-924628/)

CYESQ Feb 20th, 2012 01:38 AM

Correct greetings in Paris
 
I understand that it is considered rude to walk into a shop in France and say simply, "bonjour," that one is supposed to say "bonjour madam or mademoiselle." If you are not sure whether the shop keeper is single or married, which is the more proper greeting?

Are there any other etiquette gaffes to avoid? Thanks

Ackislander Feb 20th, 2012 02:16 AM

Mademoiselle, or monsieur as appropriate, I believe.

Be sure to say something polite when you leave as well: you will hear 'au revoir" or "bonne journee" or often both. But I don't remember anyone adding the "madamoiselle".

Don't touch the merchandise except maybe durable goods in a place like a hardware or book store.

tarquin Feb 20th, 2012 02:58 AM

This is news to me. I think a pleasant bonjour or bonsoir is perfectly acceptable, although in some cases you might naturally add madame or monsieur.

FrenchMystiqueTours Feb 20th, 2012 03:01 AM

Simply saying "bonjour" without adding monsieur or madame/mademoiselle is fine. That way there's no awkward situation in confusing a madame with a mademoiselle. When you leave either "au revoir" or "bonne journée"/"bonne soirée" is fine. Smile and make eye contact too.

Pvoyageuse Feb 20th, 2012 03:03 AM

It is one of Fodor's urban legends. Saying "bonjour" is perfectly acceptable.

colduphere Feb 20th, 2012 03:46 AM

Où sont les journaux américains? ... will also break the ice.

Aduchamp1 Feb 20th, 2012 04:14 AM

How about

Yo Mama, quoi de neuf?

cocofromdijon Feb 20th, 2012 04:39 AM

<Yo Mama, quoi de neuf?> Ca gaze!

gwan Feb 20th, 2012 05:16 AM

For me, it's not so much single or married, it's the feeling I must be looking OLD when people "madame" me :( On the other hand, some women object to "mademoiselle" for feminist reasons. So yeah, while I find French people usually do say "madame/monsieur/mademoiselle", you're fine not doing it. I hardly ever do, and no-one's run me out of town yet. And it's "bonsoir" at night, if you remember.

Christina Feb 20th, 2012 05:33 AM

I wonder who makes up these rules that the OP cites. Never heard of that, and that would make a lot of French people rude since that is what they do (often say only bonjour). Madame is normal if you are not obviously pretty young, it doesn't mean you "look old." The use of Mme and Mlle in French is kind of clumsy because they don't have a good use of something similar to Ms, although Madame pretty much is used that way for women past the age of 35 or so, I think.

gwan Feb 20th, 2012 05:38 AM

"Madame is normal if you are not obviously pretty young" - exactly... I've lived in France for a few years now, and definitely over that time the number of people calling me Madame has increased and the number calling me Mademoiselle has decreased. Hence it makes me feel old.

colduphere Feb 20th, 2012 05:46 AM

What would you say if you were uncertain if the person was a Madame or a Monsieur? This happens in Canada.

Bianca_P Feb 20th, 2012 05:57 AM

Calling someone mademoiselle usually means you are trying to flirt with them or to patronise them. As long as they're visibly over 18, Madame is the standard. But even then you don't NEED to add monsieur/madame...a simple bonjour will do.

Pvoyageuse Feb 20th, 2012 05:58 AM

"The use of Mme and Mlle in French is kind of clumsy "

It might be clumsy for foreigners but it is not for native speakers.

bilboburgler Feb 20th, 2012 06:02 AM

Bonjour Toutes does for me if there ae many

Pvoyageuse Feb 20th, 2012 06:24 AM

"Bonjour Toutes does for me if there ae many"

Might do it for you but not for other people, especially if there are men. They'll feel excluded :-))
"Toutes" = feminine plural.
Why try to make simple things complicated? Use "bonjour" with a smile, that's all.

cocofromdijon Feb 20th, 2012 06:47 AM

May I also add there is "à" right after bonjour, like in "bonjour à tous"

basingstoke2 Feb 20th, 2012 06:48 AM

<<Yo Mama, quoi de neuf?>>

An incomplete greeting. It should be "Yo Mama, quoi de neuf homey?" That has the added advantage of eliminating any age and gender uncertainty.

PatrickLondon Feb 20th, 2012 06:53 AM

>>What would you say if you were uncertain if the person was a Madame or a Monsieur? This happens in Canada.<<

Is that why you say "Eh?" all the time?

suze Feb 20th, 2012 06:57 AM

I agree a plain old 'bonjour' is fine. Especially if you aren't sure if madan or mademoiselle would be correct.

Ackislander Feb 20th, 2012 07:15 AM

We are a pretty formal family. My kid sirred and ma'med until they were out of college, and no one thought they were referring to "the Bloody Queen." My Southern granddaughters call older people "Mr. John" or "Miss Jean."

Just saying "Bonjour" to me sounds cold. Nothing wrong with adding "ca va?" or "ca va bien?" or addressing a group with "bonjour a tous" like the adorable Sylvie on France 5 News(sorry for lack of diacritics).

But how would I deal with French visitors to the US if I were an American waiter? Can I call them "mecs" the way I would call a table full of Americans "guys"? Should I tutoyer them if I speak to a group, or do I have to say "Vous mecs?" to be polite? And what is the equivalent of "mec" for females (think American "Dudes and dudettes" or the "gal" so common and grating in the Midwest)? Or as so often in French, do the women just become part of the great male group? So much fruit for exploration here! :-)

Cowboy1968 Feb 20th, 2012 07:30 AM

I leave the more personal "Bonjour M./Mme." to situations when I direct myself more or less immediately to the owner/sales person to ask for something. So the greeting would be more like the first sentence of a subsequent conversation.
If I enter a place just to browse or look around, I'd probably say just Bonjour.
Probably totally artificial and useless that self-made "logic" of mine, but so far I have not been kicked out anywhere.

Pvoyageuse Feb 20th, 2012 07:37 AM

Just saying "Bonjour" to me sounds cold.
It is not in French.

Nothing wrong with adding "ca va?" or "ca va bien?"
Would be considered weired and probably too familiar if used with complete strangers.

or addressing a group with "bonjour a tous"
Fine if you address a group, not sale people in a shop.

But how would I deal with French visitors to the US if I were an American waiter? Can I call them "mecs"

Surely not. It is slang. It would be considered extremely rude.


Should I tutoyer them if I speak to a group, or do I have to say "Vous mecs?" to be polite?
No "tu", no "vous mecs". Bonjour ou Bonsoir Messieurs/Mesdames and "vous" all the way.

And what is the equivalent of "mec" for females (think American "Dudes and dudettes" or the "gal" so common and grating in the Midwest)? Or as so often in French, do the women just become part of the great male group?

There are many equivalents of mec. Unfortuantely they are all slang and would not be used by a waiter to address his customers. This would (again) be considered very rude.

I wish people would not try to "translate" (in action/language) and to import their habits from one language to another as if it were at all possible. It is not, there are too many cultural differences. The over-friendliness of US waiters makes French patrons cringe and they don't consider it good service to be interrupted umpteen times during their meals. Ditto with being handled the bill before asking for it. Calling someone by his/her first name is not done as easily in France as in it in America.

Cowboy1968 Feb 20th, 2012 07:47 AM

4.5 hrs ago you said that seulement Bonjour was fine.
Now it sounds cold.
Has the temperature dropped in the Romandie? :-)

FrenchMystiqueTours Feb 20th, 2012 07:47 AM

Pvoyageuse - In America, do you not enjoy being greeted by a gum smacking waiter/waitress who addresses all males and females at the table with an overly-enthusiastic "Hi guys, what can I get ya!", as if he/she hadn't seen a human in months?

Pvoyageuse Feb 20th, 2012 07:52 AM

:-)))

colduphere Feb 20th, 2012 08:01 AM

As society ages, many restaurant customers are also gum smackers.

FrenchMystiqueTours Feb 20th, 2012 08:07 AM

You'd think people would at least have manners and stick their gum to the underside of the table where it belongs.

Bianca_P Feb 20th, 2012 08:30 AM

"But how would I deal with French visitors to the US if I were an American waiter? Can I call them "mecs" the way I would call a table full of Americans "guys"? Should I tutoyer them if I speak to a group, or do I have to say "Vous mecs?" to be polite? And what is the equivalent of "mec" for females (think American "Dudes and dudettes" or the "gal" so common and grating in the Midwest)? Or as so often in French, do the women just become part of the great male group?"

Just no, no, and no to all of the above. The French are a surprisingly formal people and would never use this kind of informal language in any context except with friends or family (a

Bianca_P Feb 20th, 2012 08:31 AM

^^rats! sorry about the above. to continue:

(and perhaps not even then! There are some French parents who still demand that their children address them as "vous"...).

Cowboy1968 Feb 20th, 2012 09:19 AM

Eh alors.. As if there was no way to say "hi guys" in French.. c'est vachement facile:
Salut, les gars!
(les minettes/dudettes can feel included)

P.S. Don't try that out at the Tour d'Argent on a bunch of waiters or your next table neighbors!

flanneruk Feb 20th, 2012 09:27 AM

Am I just deaf?

I've never heard a customer <b>initiating</b> a greeting with a member of staff in any French shop with a checkout (as distinct from a counter), except in very neighbourhoody-style convenience stores - and even that usually only when the checkout operator and the customer knew each other. And it's always been the stallholder, not the customer, who initiated the mutual greeting in a market.

Indeed, in the French stores I've run, the only recorded examples ever of a greeting from a customer roughly translated as "give me your takings or I'll shoot you".

In the boulangeries, traiteurs and little dress shops, fine. But in Kookai, FNAC, Carrefour or your unfriendly motorway service station? Tu rigoles ou quoi?

suze Feb 20th, 2012 10:11 AM

I don't speak French (beyond a few pleasantries, and being able to fluently say "I'm sorry I don't speak French). So continuing on with the greeting asking people how they are would be just plain dumb. Since I couldn't understand their reply anyway.

cornelius01 Feb 20th, 2012 10:13 AM

At least there are no gum smacking waiters in Paris that try to ram a drink down your throat the minute you sit down! They are not too friendly but that's ok with me as am there to have good meal not socialize with them. I know this is the wrong forum but had to vent.

colduphere Feb 20th, 2012 10:19 AM

Suze you should run the "I don't speak French" by us in case you are saying it incorrectly.

suze Feb 20th, 2012 10:32 AM

Believe me, cold, it is correct. The friend who I stay with in europe (french-speaking part of switzerland) made me practice it four bazillion times to get it right. She 'forces' me to do errands for her in places where I need to function in the language. So while not fluent by any stretch I am fairly adept at getting things done and not offending merchants or shopkeepers while I'm at it.

colduphere Feb 20th, 2012 10:38 AM

That's good Suze as France is the only country in the world where it is critical that you say "Sorry I don't speak your language" perfectly in their language. Or they get pissed of.

Michel_Paris Feb 20th, 2012 10:44 AM

Bonjour on way in ( and I have also found that the shopkeeper/waiter will initiate with a Bonjour Monsieur), and a merci au revoir/bonne journee/ bonsoir on way out.

If I were to initiate a conversation..Pardon Monsieur/Madame.

Agree no reason to add words if you are not bilingual, polite and formal

I am bilingual, so no issues with conversations.

Aduchamp1 Feb 20th, 2012 12:57 PM

Actually the first thing I learn in any new language ls "I am much smarter in English."

CYESQ Feb 20th, 2012 08:46 PM

Thanks all! Appreciate your help with this.


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