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-   -   Politenesses (https://www.fodors.com/community/europe/politenesses-109363/)

abc Mar 2nd, 2001 01:12 AM

Politenesses
 
I was reading a book about France, and one of the things they said was that it's very rude not to say "Bonjour" or "Bonsoir" before talking to someone. In 5 years of learning French, no one'd ever told me this! Bah. <BR> <BR>Do you know of any politenesses (sp?) like this that a traveller should know about?

greg Mar 2nd, 2001 01:35 AM

Next on the list is probably asking "Do you speak English?" in some way before start speaking in English. <BR> <BR>I think the books about France state the need to say "Bonjour" too conservatively as "one should", "it is polite to say," etc. I think the books should say "It is inexcusable not to say Bonjour."

Florence Mar 2nd, 2001 01:55 AM

What we consider rude is to to jump straight at "I want to buy/order this / go there" without first acknowledging that your are addressing a fellow human being. You can do so by saying "bonjour" or "excusez-moi", then "parlez-vous anglais?", then only "I'd like to ...".

clairobscur Mar 2nd, 2001 03:12 AM

<BR> In fact, it's not exactly that people *think* it's rude not to say "bonjour", but it's so customary, that the sentence *sounds* rude if not preceded/followed by the proper amount of "bonjour", "s'il vous plait", etc... as if the other person was an officer/parent giving an order to a private/young boy. Perhaps the person won't even notice you didn't say "bonjour" or whatever, but she'll *feel* you were rude for some reason. <BR> <BR>Thinking about that, it comes to my mind that the "bonjour" is in fact mandatory for the person entering the "private domain" (in a broad sense) of someone else. For instance, the baker asking what you want will perhaps not say "bonjour", but the customer will before buying his croissant if he's the first to speak... In fact, a lot of other exceptions comes to my mind, but anyway, while it can be detrimental to forget one of these polite words, you won't go wrong adding too much of them in a sentence. <BR> <BR> Some people won't care of course, but some *will*, believe me. The following sentence often appears when depicting an arrogant/rude person : "il ne dit meme pas bonjour!" (he doesn't even care to say bonjour!).

abc Mar 2nd, 2001 03:44 AM

Is there anything like this in other languages/countries? How about gestures, eye contact...?

xxx Mar 2nd, 2001 03:51 AM

Why not just get in the habit of doing this EVERYWHERE? It can't hurt. it will either be standard normal polite behavior, which is good, or extra nice behavior, which is also good.

frank Mar 2nd, 2001 04:03 AM

The best way to get this info is to use your eyes & ears - watch what the locals do, do the same , you will be treated the same.

linda Mar 2nd, 2001 04:16 AM

Dear abc, Please notice that the French not only use words of politeness, such as "Bonjour" and "Merci", with regularity, they follow these words with Madame, Monsieur, etc. as appropriate. Your courtesy will still sound "off" without completing your greeting. Happy travels!

Bob Mar 2nd, 2001 04:24 AM

Allow me to share. Our taxi came to take us to the airport (Paris) the driver greeted me with Bonjour Monsieur and I said Bonjour Monsieur, he loaded our bags and then said Bonjour Madame to my wife as she was getting into the cab and she didn't hear him. At that point everything stopped as he once again said Bonjour Madame, she then replyed Bonjour Monsieur and we were able to go on our way.

Florence Mar 2nd, 2001 04:44 AM

Bonjour abc and xxx, <BR> <BR>there are indeed many culture where it is considered rude to open a conversation without first greeting the person you're talking to, inquiring about their health, or even engaging in some small talk about the weather or current events, before coming to the point of one's visit. <BR> <BR>The Japanese, for example, always complain about the abruptness of foreigners who will enter a store and just ask for something without taking any interest in the other products on display. <BR> <BR>I completely agree with xxx: being polite everywhere can only do good.

sylvia Mar 2nd, 2001 06:13 AM

Yes, Americans sometimes come across as rude when they don't intend it. ! agree always use Madame, signora etc. and always use please and thank you. Try to learn a few words of the language if it's only "thank you" or "excuse me"

just Mar 10th, 2001 02:36 PM

Just fyi. I've lived in NYC for 10 plus years, and it wouldn't be unusual to go into a store, restaurant, deli, etc., and get straight to the point without saying hello. It's an extremely fast paced city.

Beth Anderson Mar 10th, 2001 02:49 PM

Hi, <BR> <BR>You know, when you think of it, most times when you interact with people right there in your own home town - be it work, restaurants, or your buddy next door - you say hi, what's up, or some such first, before diving in with "how much does this cost" or what have you... <BR> <BR>right? <BR> <BR>Beth, home SICK and bored... (I think I caught something on the plane. whine whine whine...)

Ryn Mar 10th, 2001 03:17 PM

I live a pretty fast-paced life, but I have never in memory been rude enough to launch right into a face-to-face dialogue with a stranger without first greeting that person politely. How on earth are they going to know who it is you are addressing if you do not? <BR> <BR>If I'm in a supermarket and can't find something, I'm going to walk up to a stocker and say, "Good evening. Please pardon the interruption, but could you tell me where I would find peanut butter?" I can tell you, that solicits a much more helpful response than just "Where's the peanut butter?" <BR> <BR>It's just common courtesy, in any language, and everyone should do it all the time. <BR>

Joe Mar 10th, 2001 03:26 PM

If people are rude in the country they live in, do you really expect them to be polite when they are traveling? I very rarely hear someone say "thank you" when I do something like hold a door open for them. I often want to say "you're welcome" to their lack of reponse, but that would be rude!

Jayelle Mar 10th, 2001 04:37 PM

I always have a tough time remembering to say "Bonjour" to the shopkeeper when entering a store during my first few days in France since I'm not used to doing so at home. However, a few days into my trip it becomes a habit. Similarly, I've also noticed that people always say "Au revior" when leaving your presence, or vice versa, so I try to remember to do this also. <BR> <BR>Regarding abc's question about similar things in other countries, in Italy, I'd make a habit of saying "Grazie" frequently, and the Italians would unfailingly reply with a "Prego."

ann onymous Mar 10th, 2001 05:00 PM

Observations: <BR>1. American accidentally bumps hard into another person in a crowd. The American says, "Oops". The bumpee, as a result of the bump, trips and drops packages. The American mumbles something that sounds like "sahbithat" ("sorry about that" maybe?) and seems to let out a very faint nervous giggle. <BR>2. American bumps into an Englishman in a crowd. The Englishman says, "Pardon". <BR>3. Frenchwoman hurriedly brushes her way past others in a crowd and says, "Pardon". <BR>4. German walks in front of an American taking photos in Paris and steps on the American's foot, nearly knocking him over. The German says nothing and procceds on his way. The American returns to the USA and tells everyone how rude the Parisians are.

Andrea Mar 10th, 2001 06:31 PM

I've also noticed that it's customary to make eye contact with the salesperson in a store (or restaurant) in France (and now I do it everywhere) when leaving (regardless of whether or not you've purchased anything) and say "Thank you, good bye." You'll sound more like a native if you run it all together, so it sounds like: "merSEEaVOIR."

Beth Mar 10th, 2001 07:08 PM

I agree with the last poster. You learn a lot if you just listen to what's going on around you. I ventured into a patisserie in Paris, on my own pretty much for the first time. I took a moment to listen to others and found that the woman behind the counter greeted everyone immediately upon entering with a "Bonjour". Everyone upon leaving always ended with a "Merci-au revoir". I found myself doing the same thing and felt like I fit in a bit better with the locals. I even orderd completely in french, which was really rusty. <BR>What works in one city or country may not work in others, so the best thing to do is just take a moment to observe before jumping in. It will make a difference.


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