Sunday, October 7, 2007

Bonjour & Au revoir

The French focus heavily on greetings. We have noticed this over and over again both in Paris and in Pau. As soon as one steps into any type of business (restaurant, bar, store,...), the nearest worker says "bonjour monsieur", "bonjour madame". And it is clearly expected that the customer return the greeting. The greeting never seems forced; it is always accompanied by a smile and seems whole-hearted. The same occurs when one departs the store or restaurant; one leaves by exchanging a merci and au revoir.
You may ask how we noticed this greeting formality. It is certainly not a custom in North America, and caught us off guard in the beginning. We would enter or leave a store and appear like rude customers because we did not provide the proper greeting. Imagine exchanging hellos with the Starbucks or Tim Horton's employees as soon as you enter the store, regardless of how big their line-up is. And then "saying goodbye, have a nice evening", when departing, and receiving a reply from often more than one of the employees (often said as "au revoir monsieur", "au revoir madame").
Unfortunately for us, the bonjour greeting gives us away as Canadians as soon as we enter the door. For some reason, we say bonjour and au revoir very differently than the locals. I suspect it is the same as the words that gave us away as Maritimers in Alberta. These words included car, bar, and the infamous tour (apparantly pronounced 'toor' by Maritimers). I've been practising my bonjour and au revoir, to no avail. I suspect we'll sound like foreigners for some time.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Gilles and April: These updates are great, keep it up! Bonsoir...