Maîtres mots

  • Il y a longtemps que notre pays est beau mais rude.

       --Newspaper editor Olivier Séguret, 25 January 2012

    The USA are entirely the creation of the accursed race, the French.

       --Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966), writing to Nancy Mitford, 22 May 1957

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French Freedom of Speech

Today the cheminots are:

  • "À nous de vous faire préférer le train!"
    "Voyager autrement"
    "Avec le SNCF, tout est possible"
      --Former ad slogans of the SNCF (French national trains), each in turn quickly dropped

Fun French words

  • ouistiti

    (literally: marmoset)
    Etymology: onomatopoeia from the sound a marmoset makes. Actual meaning: this is what you say in France when you want people to smile for the camera.

    Selon une étude réalisée par le fabricant d’appareils photo Nikon, le « ouistiti » utilisé en France au moment de se faire prendre en photo est le petit mot le plus efficace pour s’assurer un joli sourire.

Who's en colère today?

  • Private sector

    First strike in 43 years at an aeronautics company in Toulouse, Latécoère

    Public sector

    The SNCF (toujours eux), regional train employees in the Lyons area guaranteeing unpleasant travel from the 17th-21st December
    Also yet another strike by Sud-Rail, a particularly truculent SNCF union in the south of France, this time five days in January: 6,7, 21, 22 and 23. "We have no choice." Right.

    Marseilles trams on strike until February

Go back to school in Paris!

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Sure, politeness is a wonderful thing, specially when it is shared by the vast majority. But there is another side to this coin, which is service. There is an asymmetry: you are paying, the other person is getting paid. In this respect, the minimum one can expect is to have clercks, shop-assistants, garcons, or whoever, attend the customer EVEN if the customer is rude.

I cannot count how many times I was in a hurry looking for something, asked a question directly to a clerk without saying "hello" and was clearly looked upon by the clerk at that minute. This is meaningless. A good way of reacting, from the clerk's viewpoint, is just simply to say hello with a smile and follow up the conversation naturally.

in paris nowadays, it seems that the customer has to be actually more polite than the clerk in order to hope for an average service (let's just simply not mention public administrations in paris). In japan, where i live, this is simply the opposite: customers are usually rude by french standards, while clerks are just simply amazingly caring for their customers. And any form of tip is rejected...

Your post today made me think about how I behave when I'm here in the U.S. and shopping or need to ask directions (in France I always say Hello or Excuse Me first because I know "the Rules"). Actually, when I think about it, I don't think I COULD walk up to a complete stranger and ask a question without prefacing it with "Hi" or "Excuse me". I think it would feel awkward to me to do it any other way. But I guess not all Americans do that? I never noticed before but I think I'll try an experiment for the next few weeks and observe others in stores to see how they behave. It's a bit depressing to think about... are we really that self-absorbed as a culture?

From Sedulia:

Everyone was teasing me about it in the States-- I can't enter or leave a store now without saying "hello" and "goodbye"! It seems so rude now!

I must say that I like the French way. Born and bred an American it would certainly take some getting used to but politeness and civility are NEVER out of place, even when one is waving money in a shop clerk's face.

As a person who is not rich and has had to work in the customer service sphere I see nothing wrong with expecting people with whom one deals to behave with civil humanity and acknowledge your role as a human being first, business facilitating unit second.

Customers demand to be treated a certain way because they have money, well perhaps they should remember that with a small display of human kindness they might be treated with respect regardless of what they can do for some anonymous business owner's coffers.

Otherwise...lay your wallet on the table and I will interact with IT as it is not seeking some psychological catharsis by playing the role of Edwardian first class passenger to my serving girl.

Yes, the French way seems to be a demand for respect first, money grubbing second. Sounds yummy.

If I am in a customer service position, and I know that customers from country X do not say Bonjour before asking a question, I should simply take it in stride, and deal with them.

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Today's quotation

  • In Paris, the purest virtue is the object of the filthiest slander.

      –Honoré Balzac (1799-1850), in Scènes de la vie privée

    À Paris, la vertu la plus pure est l'objet des plus sales calomnies.

Le petit aperçu d'Ailleurs

  • Annual Geminids meteor shower (shooting stars!) coming this weekend, if it's not too cloudy out at night.

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