Correct greetings in Paris

Old Feb 20th, 2012, 07:15 AM
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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!
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Old Feb 20th, 2012, 07:30 AM
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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.
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Old Feb 20th, 2012, 07:37 AM
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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.
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Old Feb 20th, 2012, 07:47 AM
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4.5 hrs ago you said that seulement Bonjour was fine.
Now it sounds cold.
Has the temperature dropped in the Romandie?
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Old Feb 20th, 2012, 07:47 AM
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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?
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Old Feb 20th, 2012, 07:52 AM
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)
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Old Feb 20th, 2012, 08:01 AM
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As society ages, many restaurant customers are also gum smackers.
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Old Feb 20th, 2012, 08:07 AM
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You'd think people would at least have manners and stick their gum to the underside of the table where it belongs.
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Old Feb 20th, 2012, 08:30 AM
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"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
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Old Feb 20th, 2012, 08:31 AM
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^^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"...).
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Old Feb 20th, 2012, 09:19 AM
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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!
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Old Feb 20th, 2012, 09:27 AM
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Am I just deaf?

I've never heard a customer initiating 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?
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Old Feb 20th, 2012, 10:11 AM
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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.
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Old Feb 20th, 2012, 10:13 AM
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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.
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Old Feb 20th, 2012, 10:19 AM
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Suze you should run the "I don't speak French" by us in case you are saying it incorrectly.
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Old Feb 20th, 2012, 10:32 AM
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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.
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Old Feb 20th, 2012, 10:38 AM
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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.
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Old Feb 20th, 2012, 10:44 AM
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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.
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Old Feb 20th, 2012, 12:57 PM
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Actually the first thing I learn in any new language ls "I am much smarter in English."
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Old Feb 20th, 2012, 08:46 PM
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Thanks all! Appreciate your help with this.
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