French Etiquette Question

Jun 7th, 2010, 07:45 PM
  #1  
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French Etiquette Question

When you enter a shop and the sales person/owner is in conversation with another customer or the shop is crowded with other shoppers, do you still call out "Bonjour Madame"? This has always stymied me since it feels rude to interrupt a conversation, but also rude not to greet the sales person.
theflock is offline  
Jun 7th, 2010, 07:49 PM
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I would definitely not interrupt someone who is having a conversation. That is rude. Wait until you are waited on to say Bonjour, Mme. If no one else is in the shop then say your greeting straight away.

Think about what you would do at home - you would not interrupt someone during a conversation just to say hello.

BTW - I've noticed that many people in Paris are not using Mme, M, Mille in their greeting. Of course, this is the younger generation I'm speaking of.
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Jun 7th, 2010, 07:59 PM
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I agree, Adrienne, I wouldn't interrupt a transaction here, but I don't normally sing out "Helloooo!" when I walk into a store either.
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Jun 7th, 2010, 08:17 PM
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You never interupt a conversation . When it is your turn , you say bonjour.
And Please, interupt at home!
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Jun 7th, 2010, 08:19 PM
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LOL, I meant DON'T
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Jun 8th, 2010, 01:09 AM
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Actually, you will find that if a French person comes into a shop s/he will say to the ether B'jour messieurs/dames" Not so much an interruption so much as a general exclamation
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Jun 8th, 2010, 02:06 AM
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"I've noticed that many people in Paris are not using Mme, M, Mille in their greeting."

You are right. It is only on Fodor's.
Pvoyageuse is offline  
Jun 8th, 2010, 02:28 AM
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I don't call out "hello" when I walk into a shop at home but I do greet the salesperson when I get eye contact.

I think if you are very familiar with the shop and owners/sales people and have long patronized the shop you have a different mode of entering and saying hello than the one-time customer would have. In this case it would be fine to sing out "hello" as the person in conversation would not be obliged to stop the conversation to greet you (or look at you weirdly - whichever the case).
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Jun 8th, 2010, 02:41 AM
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"as the person in conversation would not be obliged to stop the conversation to greet you"

Unless the person is engaged in a vital conversation, I certainly expect him/her to stop it in order to help me. I am not interested to know about his/her plans for next week-end. Politeness goes both ways.
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Jun 8th, 2010, 05:16 AM
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Completely agree with Pv and I've been on both sides of a counter for a long time. Polite, gracious and helpful, it should always be this way.
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Jun 8th, 2010, 07:03 AM
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I'm presuming the sales person is speaking with another customer. I would expect to wait my turn. I hadn't even considered other options as I only expect that type of behavior at Macy's (and that is why I no longer patronize Macy's).
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Jun 8th, 2010, 07:06 AM
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I wouldn't ever "shout" out anything. But in most cases, I've noted that whenever someone enters a business establishment, a quiet "bonjour" or, more formally "mesdames, messieurs, bonjour" is the norm.
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Jun 8th, 2010, 08:29 AM
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In the countryside, we've always heard "Bonjours, messieurs, dames," said everywhere in the same lilting way. Presumably no young person in a village is going to rock the boat by changing the age-old format! At least not while grandmere has her eye on the shop.
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Jun 8th, 2010, 08:35 AM
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And the same Q could be for the mandatory "Au revoir madame" when leaving the establishment
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Jun 8th, 2010, 09:20 AM
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When I was In Provence I had to go to the dr. upon entering the waiting room, everybody smiled and said Bonjour to me.

Very different from US waiting rooms where nobody even looks at you.
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Jun 8th, 2010, 09:30 AM
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As for the other sites near Interlaken, along the 2 lakes Thun and Brienz...any ideas about favorite sites in that area?>

which brings up to me an ironic thing

whenever my French in-laws come to the States they are amazed how friendly people are on the street - often smiling and saying hi as you pass each other

and also cashiers in say supermarkets - much more friendly here - in France you may have the perfunctory "Bonjour Monsier" but that don't mean it is always said in a really friendly fasion in places like the grandes surfaces.

And everytime my son, born and raised in France, returns to France he exclaims how unfriendly and even rude the French are (his words, not mine)

So it is ironic to me that the perfunctory greeting when entering and leaving a small store, office, etc. may not be more than lip service

anyway my French friends are always amazed at how friendly Americans are as opposed to their fellow French folk
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Jun 8th, 2010, 10:13 AM
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"but that don't mean it is always said in a really friendly fasion in places like the grandes surfaces".

I don't think that when sales person/cashier/waiter etc asks you in the US "how are you today? " they are concerned about your feeling better or worse than yesterday.
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Jun 8th, 2010, 01:04 PM
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Pv - Well my French in-laws certainly do feel American clerks are friendlier than those in France.

In fact last year there were consultants hired by a major French retailer to try to infuse the American friendliness in their staff - now i am not talking about Mom and Pop stores or shops where the owner says Bonjour, madame to all.
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Jun 8th, 2010, 01:27 PM
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Some of the French business people feel that Americans can do no wrong in their business practices. I disagree.

To go back to the original question, when one enters a business place with people in conversation, one turns towards the person of importance (i.e. shopkeeper, cashier...) and says a muted 'bonjour' so as not to be brash. The other person will either nod acknowledgement or interrupt the discussion to say 'bonjour' in return.

And if you are ignored, no problem.
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Jun 8th, 2010, 01:33 PM
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But this "friendliness" does not mean anything! The sales person does not care about me (why should he/she? ) anymore than I care about him/her (why should I?). Being asked "how are you today" does not imply any answer from me except "fine, thank you". Is this what you call friendliness?
It would be interesting to see the reaction of the "greeter" if I gave a very detailed answer (headache yesterday morning, dizzy this morning , fine since noon). How long do you think his "friendly" smile would stay stuck to his lips?
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