Bonjour Goes A Long Way!

A favourite American writer of mine, Elizabeth Bard, recalls an episode when she went shopping with her mother in Paris. Elizabeth lives in Paris and her mother was visiting.

 

In one particular boutique, her mother barged in  eyeing something she wanted to buy.  She approached a salesperson to assist her and was subsequently given the cold shoulder.

Elizabeth whisked her mother out of the store before a diplomatic incident ensued.  And coming from a country where the customer is always right, her mother was bewildered so she asked her daughter — “What was that all about?”

To which Elizabeth replied — “You forgot to say bonjour.” 

 

 

 

Le Greeting! 

Bonjour” will get you a long way in Paris.  And it is the polite protocol when you enter a shop or boutique.

In fact, in most places, the shop owner and/or salesperson will beat you to it, in which case, it is expected that you return with an upbeat “bonjour”  yourself.

 

 

That may be the only French word you use but it can work wonders.

You will, as a result, be a person of interest, worthy of some consideration and any assistance that you might require.

The alternative — well, Elizabeth’s mother soon found out.

Like kissing friends on both cheeks (“faire la bise”), the French like to connect to their potential customers as soon as they come in the door. This does not mean that they will follow you around or hound you to buy something. In fact, quite the opposite, most salespeople want you to approach them and be asked about their knowledge.

“What cheese would you recommend to have with champagne?”

“How would you prepare that cut of meat?”

“What colour scarf would go well with this blouse?”

Surprisingly, sales in France are not about the purchase.  They are about respect for  “la vendeuse|”le vendeur”, and their wares.

 

 

 

Quick Lesson in Using “Bonjour”

“Bonjour” can mean hello, good morning and good afternoon. Bonsoir”|good eveningis used after dusk.

 You might also hear Salut, which is also hello but more informal and used between friends or people that you see often.

If you frequent the same bar a few times, you can certainly greet your waiter with Salut.

 

If you want to get more complicated, when you enter a smaller store or boutique, do a quick scan —

  is there just one salesperson, or are there more? Then greet them accordingly in an enthusiastic tone.

Bonjour Madame!” or “Bonjour Mesdames!”

 Bonjour Monsieur!” or “Bonjour Messieurs”

 

 

You will also notice that you will be greeted this way when you arrive at a restaurant. If you have a gentleman with you, you will hear Bonjour Monsieur Dame”, which sounds odd because they do not use the pronoun  et|and  in between Monsieur/Dame.

And yes, they will likely always address the man first. Its a long tradition, what can I say!

Love to hear about your interactions with salespeople in Paris!

 

PERFUME WINNER! AND YES, I DID Two BONUS DRAWS!

And the Winner Is…

I am excited to announce the WINNER of my SUMMER GIVEAWAY  for a bottle of Chanel Perfume.  

It is Luci Rizzo from Toronto, Canada who has won the draw and will be receiving a 50ml bottle of Chanel o5

or of Chanel’s Gabrielle.  Luci’s choice.

 

Bonus Winners

However, I was so thrilled with the number of entries for this Giveaway that I decided to do

a Second and yes, even a Third draw for some bonus gifts which include some small Paris-themed items!

Those WINNERS are Timmithea Leeds from San Diego, California and Michelle Kimenhour from Chester, Virginia. 

Both of these ladies became New Subscribers to my blog as a result of this draw!  Thank you ladies.

 

Thank you All

I want to thank all of you who entered, either by becoming new subscribers, or by making at least 3 comments on my

various blogs over the last month.  I have so enjoyed hearing from you and your stories about Paris.  I hope you will continue to

contribute.

More GIVEAWAYS are coming I promise!

Let’s say Congrats to our WINNERS!

Gift purchases brought to you by www.womanofacertainageinparis.com

22 Comments

  1. Kelly on July 7, 2019 at 8:03 am

    When we were in Paris a few years ago, we did fine with sales people but had a waiter or two who seemed less than enthusiastic to wait our tables. My daughter and I are pretty aware of manners so we didn’t do anything to offend on purpose. Was there some etiquette (such as “the bonjour “ in shops) that we were unaware of for restaurants? Or maybe this is the norm in Parisian restaurants.

    • Diana Bishop on July 7, 2019 at 8:56 am

      Yes waiters — that is a whole different subject and one I will get into my blog.
      It is part of their schitk especially in Paris to be remote and abrupt.One does not befriend
      a waiter, a waiter or waitress decides when and if to befriend you.

      If you frequent the same bistro over and over, that
      changes but if you are just a one time customer, I suggest you be courteous,
      do the Bonjour thing and then act as deferential as they do.

      Some of readers to this blog may have some ideas too!

      Thanks for the comment Kelly. Always great to hear from you. Diana

  2. Twink on July 7, 2019 at 8:24 am

    Shopping is a social event so one should “dress “ accordingly. The “bonjour” with a smile speaks volumes!

    • Diana Bishop on July 7, 2019 at 8:50 am

      Twink — that is such a good point. In Paris, especially, shopping is an event and it is fun
      to make that effort to be a little more stylish in the process. I love stopping for a coffee
      at Galeries Lafayette overlooking the huge rotunda where you can see all the fashion floors at
      a glance!

  3. Luci Rizzo on July 7, 2019 at 8:27 am

    Diana, I am thrilled to be the winner of this amazing prize. Chanel is THE first French brand that comes to mind when i think of Paris. I even bought a very lovely framed print of the iconic Chanel parfum bottle years ago and it adorns one of my bedroom walls! A vanity sits below this wall and i will place the parfum below it. Its all decided. Lol
    In Paris i did find the shop keepers aloof but i was perhaps expecting this, it didn’t concern me, and when I engaged w them all went well. I will now us the power of “Bonjour’. Thanks Diana

    • Diana Bishop on July 7, 2019 at 8:48 am

      So thrilled that you are the winner Luci. You have been such a loyal supporter of my blog.
      Chanel o5 it is for you lucky lady. Such a classic scent – what Coco herself wore and so many
      many French women in Paris still do today. Thank you for entering the draw! Diana
      PS Readers will be hearing more about you in future. I like to write about the winners!

  4. Shardie Stevenson on July 7, 2019 at 9:47 am

    Ah Bonjour mon chere Amie !
    Yes… it is so true about the importance of Bonjour when entering a shop in Paris! As in many things about Paris, it is so civilized, isn’t it? The Bonjour, personalizes the experience of shopping and pays homage to the sales person who is there to offer you advice and service. I just adore shopping in the small neighborhood stores ,for instance Le Marais , whether it be for gorgeous prepared food for dinner or for a scarf that catches your eye! It is an experience that defines what I love about the city and the culture. My French is limited, but roaming through the streets of Paris with you, shopping here and there , is simply delightful!

  5. Sandra on July 7, 2019 at 10:28 am

    Greeting people with “bonjour” even extends to a physician’s waiting room! I needed to visit a doctor in Reims and entered the waiting room filled with patients, found a magazine and sat down to wait my turn. I looked up and literally everyone was staring at me! I could not figure out what I had done to warrant all the attention. Soon after, another patient arrived who greeted the entire room with an enthusiastic “Bonjour”.

    Being from NY where people never even make eye contact, this memory always make me laugh!

  6. Eileen on July 7, 2019 at 10:35 am

    My favorite experience was seeing a coat in a shop window, and entering, saying bonjour, and inquiring about the coat. The sales lady opened up my trench, and inspected my shape, even with a sweater on, and pronounced my size! Pulled it from it’s hanger, and, it fit! I was so surprised, but it got better, she proceeded to show me “ how to wear it” collar up! Belted just so. I bought it, and wore it out of the shop, collar up! I really appreciate the knowledge and help the shop owners give, both in Paris, and other parts of Europe. I think in the states, we forget, if the customer looks good, other customers will follow. I so enjoyed their expertise!

  7. Michelle Kimenhour on July 7, 2019 at 2:04 pm

    Congrats Luci and Timmithea!!! How exciting!!

    • Timmithea Leeds on July 7, 2019 at 11:08 pm

      Bonjour et merci beaucoup!

      Unfortunately, I did not learn much French before I visited Paris a few years ago. I have some funny stories to tell, although not funny at the time! Luckily, my husband picks up languages fairly easy and learned all the important social graces and questions we needed to know to get around. We arrived 1am in the morning- wide awake so we walked around a bit and then went to bed. The next morning- or late morning we ended up at a crepery. The woman taking our order said “Bonjour!” to my husband which he replied the same back. I don’t think I heard anything because I was famished. I don’t eat much when I travel . So she said to me ‘…say Bon Jour!” A little annoyed, I said it back. She handed us our menus after seating us and I could see big smiles on peoples faces! All I wanted was something to eat- quick! Everything was in French. My husband made out a few items on the menu and then I recognized a goat cheese and a walnut crepe. I asked my husband to please order for me. The waitress came over to our table and in French said something- I have know idea. So, my husband in his best French ordered two coffees, our crepes and water. He ordered the water incorrectly apparently. So, the waitress corrected him and he said it again. The waitress said to me in perfect English, “…no, madame, you are in France you need to speak French. Please try, just try! I was so embraced and hungry. So, I said in a whisper “…fromage de chevre et crepe.” Then, my husband chimes in and adds “…s’il vous plait.” And then, the waitress says, “…try again!” I was fuming and embarrassed. I could see the ladies around us laughing, politely. Even the cook in the back had a grin on her face! The place was rather small. Everyone around us were carrying on conversations in low voices. Something you don’t always experience in the US either! So, in terrible French and a little louder I said “…fromage de chèvre et crepe , s’il vous plait.” “Good, “says the waitress. Ugh, I wanted to die. Whatever she said after that – in English- I have no idea!

      I am happy to stumble upon Diana’s blog! I love to hear others stories and share experiences about Paris! Maybe next time I will be a little better prepared! Au revoir! -Timmithea

      • Diana Bishop on July 9, 2019 at 8:29 am

        Timmithea — how embarrassing! My goodness. I can just imagine how tired you must have been and being in that situation on your first day! I think you handled it very well. Love hearing your stories. Keep them coming. Diana

  8. Trudy Van Buskirk on July 7, 2019 at 3:48 pm

    I only went to Paris once. It was 1971 and I was 21 so I don’t remember anything about that visit.

    I think because of my age, I was taught to be polite to everyone and so have always said “hello” to everyone.

    BTW my paternal grandmother was French Canadian and always signed her cards to me in French with “je t’aime” 💋

    • Diana Bishop on July 9, 2019 at 8:30 am

      Love that about your grandmother! Thanks for the comment. Always love hearing from you Trudy! Diana

  9. Patricia Carroll on July 8, 2019 at 9:00 am

    A similar lesson for me.
    I walked up to a gendarme in Paris to ask for directions…..did not say “ bonjour “. He looked me up and down with such disdain and slowly…ever so slowly said, “Bonjour .” It was a lesson I have never forgotten, and certainly use it in North America as well. It is such a civil approach and not only civil, it is cheerful.
    Why is it we have to learn life’s lessons by first being wrong?…sigh

  10. Barb Guilfoyle on July 8, 2019 at 4:50 pm

    Diana, I love the respect and warmth that comes from a greeting. Being said hello or bonjour to by a stranger can bring a smile to anyone. Thank you for sharing. I will enjoy Paris thru you until I get the chance to go one day.

    • Diana Bishop on July 9, 2019 at 8:22 am

      Patricia,
      Oh my! What an introduction to France. So it is not just in boutiques then! How interesting. Thank you for the comments. Love to hear from you. Diana

    • Diana Bishop on July 9, 2019 at 8:33 am

      So great to hear from you! It just doesn’t take much time to be kind does it? Thanks for the comment. Diana

  11. Mary on July 11, 2019 at 10:06 am

    I try to learn about customs/expected norms before visiting countries, as well as learning some basic phrases in whatever language applies, so I was prepared when one my sons and I were in Paris a few years ago. We were fortunate to have many great experiences in stores and restaurants simply by smiling broadly, greeting everyone with eye contact and a hearty Bonjour. Only one waiter at a cafe was surly, but I noted he was surly with everyone–French and foreigners alike.

    • Diana Bishop on July 12, 2019 at 4:06 pm

      You are so right Mary — being friendly goes a long way. And Parisian waiters — well that is a whole different story. It is considered a profession that is highly respected in France, and some love to lord it over their patrons with a surly attitude. Thanks for the comment Mary. Love hearing from you. Diana

  12. Tamara Thompson on July 14, 2019 at 10:41 am

    I JUST LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS BLOG! Say Bonjour!!!! A great tip to know and what a wonderful way to enjoy learning about Paris culture. I always learn so many interesting things from how to kiss, to how to shop….and who doesn’t love kissing and shopping. Truly enjoyable blog Diana Bishop, I am a huge fan! Tamara 🙂

    • Diana Bishop on July 14, 2019 at 12:59 pm

      It is an absolute must in France if you want to get treated well! Love hearing from you Tamara. Diana

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