You guessed it – these new weekly posts were also another brain storm upshot of my R&R time in Canada this summer.
Whereas “Un Petit Peu French” Fridays give ideas for injecting what I have coined Frenchitude into your life, no matter whether you life in Paris or in Tuktoyaktuk, my “Authentic France Travel Tip Tuesdays” are travel tips for people who are traveling to France and want ideas on how to best experience the authentic (not touristy) side of this amazing country.
I’ll bet this proper french monsieur remembered his “bonjour“, knowing that otherwise he may get a cold shoulder with his slice of cheese.
Authentic France Travel Tip #1: Remember the Power of “Bonjour”
It is true that in many ways French culture is more formal than its North American counterpart. One of the most concrete examples of this is the importance of greeting people with a polite “bonjour“.
Many visitors to France don’t realize it, but it is considered extremely rude here in France if you break into a conversation, or ask a question, or place your order at a restaurant, without first saying “bonjour“.
Remembering this little, magical word is sometimes more difficult than you would think for non-francophone travellers to France. It just so happens that I am sympathetic to this dilemma, because I have been there too.
Who hasn’t ever had doubts about their pronunciation – is it pronounced “bone-jur” or “bahn–jur“? perhaps it’s just better for everyone if I dispense with the word altogether – or stood in line at the boulangerie desperately trying to remember the sentence we have just cobbled together out of our pocket French / English dictionary? Let’s face it, the older we get the less we like to feel like an ass. Therefore, these kind of situations, even though we’re on vacation, can prove stress-inducing. As a result, it is surprisingly easy to launch into what we’re asking and believe (wrongly, as it turns out) that it doesn’t matter if we dispense with niceties.
Over the years I have been chided by shop-keepers, friends, and family here in France because if I am stressed out or in a tizzy or simply off in dream land (which happens more often than you would think) I have been known to start mid-conversation without saying “bonjour” first.
However, do learn from my past mistakes if you can: launching into anything without first saying a polite”bonjour” is never a good idea, except maybe reporting that there has been a traffic accident, and even then…
So remember this rule of thumb – say “bonjour” first in any situation, then pause for a moment and smile. You will surprised how everything else follows so easily once this basic tenet of French manners is respected.