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"The Bonjour Effect" and "Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong"

Recently we heard the authors of "The Bonjour Effect" interviewed on Rick's radio show. They were emphasized something we had been taught by the guide on our 21 Day BOE tour (Thanks, Jennifer!): When you enter a shop or restaurant in France, sing out with your best Julia Child type "Bonjour!" That is the magic phrase. You will be greeted in return, and have a much better chance of getting service that approximates what we are used to here in the States. When you leave, don't forget the "Au revoir!" as you walk out the door.

The authors are Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow, a Canadian couple who have spent a lot of time in France. "The Bonjour Effect" is a primer on what to say - and what not to say - when in France. And why. The French are just as friendly and helpful as we are, but the rules of engagement are different. For example: Never ask a French person his or her name (!) or what he or she does for a living! It's okay to discuss politics and religion, and it's expected that couples will often disagree with each other in public; they think it's a sign of a strong and healthy relationship.

Find the books. Chances are your local library has them or can get them for you. I heartily recommend anyone planning a trip to France read "The Bonjour Effect," at least. "Sixty Million Frenchmen..." is an earlier book, and gets more into sociological and historical matters. I'm reading that one now, and it's fascinating. The section on France and WWII is an eye-opener.

Posted by
4524 posts

There are only four French words a person really needs to know:

Bonjour
Bonsoir (if greeting in evening)
Parlez Anglais?

If you use the first (or second in evening) whenever first encountering someone and the last before babbling off in English, you'll find the French people to be kind and helpful almost every time.

Of course there are many more words that would be helpful, but these are the key.

Posted by
7991 posts

I would add, as very important, Merçi and Au Revoir to Doug's minimalist list.

Posted by
6353 posts

And let's not forget "s'il vous plait". Every traveler to any country should know (in that language) how to say: please, thank you, hello, goodbye, yes, no. Those are the 6 you need to know (and use) for France and anywhere else.

Posted by
1768 posts

Thanks for posting, this sounds like something I'd like to read. I've put a hold at my library. I once had a major "Bon Jour Effect" moment buying metro tickets at rush hour in Paris, and it was an enlightening experience.
Consider too "They Eat Horses, Don't They?: The Truth AboutThe French" by Piu Marie Eatwell. The review called it "hilarious and informative" but in not sure I'd go that far, at least in the hilarity department.

Posted by
4645 posts

Denny, our local library doesn't have "They eat horses..." but they do have one by the same author entitled: "F is for France: a Curious Cabinet of French Wonders." I just got on the waiting list for it, and I'll try interlibrary loan for the other one.

We did try horse meat in Sicily last year, and found it did not agree with us. Ahem. But I am willing to try it again, hoping that it was just bad meat. It tasted fine, though. We had it chopped, on a sandwich.