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French Etiquette! "Bonjour Madame or Bonjour Monsieur!

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Apr 27th, 2015, 11:46 AM
  #1
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French Etiquette! "Bonjour Madame or Bonjour Monsieur!

There is always the advice that when in France you enter a small shop or store or bakery you should right away make with a rather loud "bonjour madame" or for a man "bonjour monsieur" - this is what I was taught and the de rigueur thing you have to do - but tourists often don't know this - but now according to a French friend who is visiting it is perfectly OK to just say "Bonjour" - leaving out the madame or monsieur - a bit easier for the tourists and this lady says now satisfies the protocol.

And of course you must say "au revoir" or good-bye when leaving - that remains the same - kind of pronounced "o -vwa"!
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Apr 27th, 2015, 12:36 PM
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Isn't that just good manners, no matter which country one is in?
Obviously you don't say it in a massive supermarket, but I always greet those in a smaller shop, and if there are other customers establish who was the last one in before me, and say goodbye when I leave.
Even in supermarkets here we greet the cashier, or the deli or bread counter staff, thank them, and wish them a good day.
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Apr 27th, 2015, 12:39 PM
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Yes it may be but do you have to say something exactly like Bonjour Madame and not just bonjour - that is the point - now just a hi or bonjour is fine - no more need for the madame or monsieur (and what are the mademoiselles?)
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Apr 27th, 2015, 12:39 PM
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I'll also add that certainly here they are very sticklers about the time of day, so say good morning, or afternoon or evening, as soon as it changes, so at midday and at 6pm.
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Apr 27th, 2015, 12:43 PM
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"but do you have to say something exactly like Bonjour Madame"
No. Bonjour is fine.
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Apr 27th, 2015, 12:45 PM
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"but do you have to say something exactly like Bonjour Madame"
No. Bonjour is fine.>

that's what my friend said but she said it did not used to be that way - it used to be bonjour madame or bonjour monsieur and anything esle would have been uncouth - she is an older person.
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Apr 27th, 2015, 12:52 PM
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I couldn't agree more with PalenQ that greeting the shop owner and asking permission to look around changes the atmosphere instantly. This is the single piece of advice I give friends who travel to France for the first time. Other critical advice I would suggest for fellow American travelers is to lower your voice (a lot). We have no idea how loudly we speak or the impact it makes on others when we call out to friends across a room.

We typically stay in Paris for a month or longer and after acclimatizing to French culture for a while it is a jolt even to us when some fellow Americans enter a room.
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Apr 27th, 2015, 12:56 PM
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We have no idea how loudly we speak or the impact it makes on others when we call out to friends across a room.>

Especially the all too often thing I hear from say Texans - yelling "Do you speak English" - no Pardon me, no excuse me but just blurting out
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Apr 27th, 2015, 01:06 PM
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Additionally do not touch the merchandise.

Also it is impossible to say hello to everyone in places like Galeries Lafayette but do give the secret handshake for help in a particular department.
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Apr 27th, 2015, 01:19 PM
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It is uncouth and impolite to yell, in any language.

"Bonjour, Madame" is the correct way to address a female over the age of 18. "Bonjour, Monsieur" - ditto, for a male.
Both should be stated in a normal tone of voice.

"Au revoir, Madame/Monsieur" is also correct, when departing.
This is the equivalent of saying "Good bye, Sir", instead of just "Bye".
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Apr 27th, 2015, 01:19 PM
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"it used to be bonjour madame or bonjour monsieur and anything esle would have been uncouth - she is an older person."
She is right. It is still the case with little kids : they are taught to say bonjour madame or bonjour monsieur (and soon forget when they grow up .
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Apr 27th, 2015, 02:07 PM
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Is it okay to drop the "Bonjour" and just nod, followed by "Madame" or "Monsieur"?

I often panic if too many words are involved.
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Apr 27th, 2015, 02:23 PM
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As I seem to have missed the lesson that says one must ask permission to just poke around in a shop, what are the correct phrases to use?
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Apr 27th, 2015, 02:32 PM
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I, too, do this in any small shop anywhere, just make a quick bit of eye contact and say hello, and then thanks and goodbye when I leave. I also find that it seems to be appreciated, even in countries where it's not required as it is in France. No one likes to feel invisible, do they?
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Apr 27th, 2015, 02:34 PM
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Dang, I really wanted to enter and exit every French shop with a hearty "YEE-HAW!"
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Apr 27th, 2015, 02:35 PM
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the worst case of a shop owner not being friendly I have ever seen was in Belgium on one of our bike tours when one biker went into a small bike shop and the owner or whatever asked "What are you looking for?" The biker replied 'oh just looking around' and then the guy said 'just looking around there's the door!"

Whilst this is an exception I believe yes some small owner-operated stores do not really like looking around at times.
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Apr 27th, 2015, 02:46 PM
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In the old days, some small shops would have an "entrée libre" sign in the window. That meant that people were free to just browse. If this sign was not in the window, you were supposed to have a specific reason for wanting to enter the store.
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Apr 27th, 2015, 02:50 PM
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Thank god the old non libre service stores are gone - pardon my French - stores that a naive tourist did not know that you were supposed to ask the clerk for something and never go pick it up yourself - or are there some of these places left?

I think fruit and veg vendors at markets may still do this but haven's seen in stores for a while.
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Apr 27th, 2015, 02:57 PM
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f this sign was not in the window, you were supposed to have a specific reason for wanting to enter the store.>>

to buy something, perhaps? this may explain the attitude of not a few shop-keepers that I have come across that they were doing me a favour by even letting me into their premises - they aren't actually there to sell anything.
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Apr 27th, 2015, 03:17 PM
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I always thought that one abbreviated "Bonjour monsieur" by just saying "Monsieur" with a sort of grunt beforehand.

If it one met a couple in the street, one just said "Monsieur, 'dame".

Have I been abbreviating these phrases wrongly all these years?
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