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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Salutations in Boutiques and Restaurants

In a previous article, I held a one man debate on whether or not Parisians could be considered rude. Though there are a few who will go out of their way to make you upset or show you that they feel they have been wronged, for the most part, the people in Paris, and especially in the provinces, are unwaveringly friendly.

For example, whenever one enters a restaurant, store, or boutique, someone will come up and say hello to you. They don't do it in the "I'll help you find what you need because I am working for commission" phony sort of way. The employee will say hello to you, and then get out of your way until you've made your decision as to what you want. No pressure from the vendors makes shopping a little less stressful all around: if you want some help, you know where to find them, but if you don't, then they won't.

Now this isn't a one sided deal here. If you are going to be looking around in their store, you had better say hello and goodbye when entering and exiting. Stores here are considered like an extension of their home. If you are walking into their store and flipping through their merchandise, you had better greet them first. Once the exchange of salutations is completed, it's almost as if the vendor is saying, "Ok, now you have permission to sift through my belongings."

This really is a simple procedure, and thus, I propose to briefly explain how this should be done.

First, when walking into the store, be prepared to say bonjour or bonsoir, depending on the time of day. I tend to say bonjour until about 5pm, after which I will say bonsoir. There are times, especially during the summer when the sun stays out until close to 11pm that I will say bonjour later into the evening.

Second, when saying the chosen word, it is best to actually address it to someone, though it doesn't necessarily matter which employee receives your greeting. Occasionally, when scanning the store for a target, one might not be easily found. If you find yourself in this scenario, just say your greeting out loud, with the hopes that someone will hear you. In this situation, another shopper might step in and actually greet you, just so that you feel like your greeting was not wasted.

When leaving the store, regardless of whether or not one has bought something, one should always thank the merchant and say goodbye. Usually just a merci, au revoir should suffice, but depending on the time of day, one could add on a bonne journée or bonne soirée, or even tack on a bon weekend if it happens to be Friday or Saturday. Once again, your response may not be heard by a vendor and the responsibility may fall upon a customer. I once saw in a restaurant a man sitting by the door taking lunch, and whenever someone walked out and said goodbye, he would always step in and return the greeting if a staff member was not around.

It's not as if this takes a lot of extra work, and after a while, it just becomes a reflex. In my opinion, this is just another piece of evidence that the Parisians are not as rude as many perceive.

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