Bonjour, un café, S’il Vous Plait!


Bonjour, un café, s’il vous plaît!” Growing up in France, good manners, politeness, and étiquette is a way of life or savoir-vivre dating back to the noblesse and bourgeoisie. In terms of politeness at home and especially in public, little magic polite words like thank you merci, and please or if you please, s’il vous plaît still go a long way. Other bourgeois ways of life are a bit passé today in our new modern era society as times have changed, however, basic universal good manners are still here to stay in France.

It is still practiced and customary today when entering any public establishment, café, bank, or store such as the Boulangerie, Epicerie, Boucherie, or Patisserie to greet the shop keeper and the people in the store with a courteous Bonjour Madame, Bonjour Monsieur, or Bonjour Mademoiselle or a Messieurs/Dames with a nod of the head and when leaving with a quick farewell Au revoir Messieurs/Dames.

This polite custom creates a sense of respect and community among people. Although it’s a quick greeting it is an important courtesy that fosters civility,respect, and to some degree a sense of connection with others versus feeling anonymous, perhaps unseen, rejected, and misunderstood.

“L’incivilité, c’est la méconnaissance, la négation et le rejet de l’autre. La politesse, elle, repose sur le respect, la reconnaissance et la réciprocité. Ensemble, ces valeurs essentielles constituent un système cohérent, qui facilite le contact et régule les relations sociales.” Dominique Picard

“Incivility is the disregard, negation and rejection of the other. Politeness is based on respect, recognition and reciprocity. Together, these essential values constitute a coherent system, which facilitates contact and regulates social relations.” Dominique Picard

Also ingrained in the French culture, is showing respect for elders, so it was almost an automatic reflex to stand and offer your seat on the bus to someone older than you.

As a matter a fact we have two ways to address other people in France the polite you form and the familiar you form. The Vous form also called vouvoiement is the formal polite form of “you” used to show respect when addressing someone older than yourself,someone you just met, your boss at work etc… versus using the familiar Tu form of you used for family and friends. You don’t automatically use the familiar form or tutoiement when you first meet someone and may have to ask if you can, On peut se tutoyer?”

Here are a few polite expressions in French that could come in handy:

Bonjour > Hello

Bonsoir > Good evening

Au revoir > Goodbye

Merci > Thank you

Merci beaucoup> Thank you so much

Merci mille fois> Thank you so much ( 1 thousand times)

De rien > You’re welcome

Pas de quoi > Don’t mention it

Je vous en prie > It’s my pleasure (formal/plural)

Je t’en prie > My pleasure ( informal/singular)

S’il vous plaît > Please ( formal/plural)

S’il te plaît > Please ( informal/singular

Excusez-moi > Excuse me

Excusez-moi de vous déranger > Sorry to bother you

Pardon > Pardon me

Je suis désolé(e)> I’m sorry

Bon Appétit! > Enjoy your meal

A vos souhaits/ A tes souhaits > Bless you ( to your wishes)

books on french savoir-vivre

Pouquoi la politesse? Le savoir-vivre contre l’incivilité by Dominique Picard

Ladurée Savoir Vivre: The Art of Fine Living by Maud Hacker  (Author), Sophie Bouxom (Illustrator)

Le Petit Larousse du savoir-vivre aujourd’hui by Sabine Denuelle

Manuel du savoir-vivre contemporain: L’art de la sociabilité intelligente by Philippe Lichtfus

Le savoir-vivre de la Parisienne by Laurence Caracalla

Politesse, savoir-vvre et relations sociales ( Que sais-je?) by Dominique Picard

Le Savoir-Vivre pour les Nuls by Laurence Caracalla

In the end, it doesn’t cost much to use the little magic polite words and may even save you some money according to the café board. In any event, having good manners makes the world a nicer place for all living together, n’est-ce-pas?

“Bonjour, un café, s’il vous plaît!”

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French Culture & Lifestyle in the USA

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