Tag Archives: bonjour

Weekly Blogger Round-Up: Visiting Lisbon – Parliament House in Budapest – Being Polite in French

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This week’s Blogger Round-Up takes us to Lisbon in Portugal with Jenny and John in Brittany, a place that is definitely on my shortlist while Adelina from Pack Me To visits the inside of the Parliament Building in Budapest which we didn’t see on our visit to Hungary last summer. Margo Letsz from The Curious Rambler, whom you met last week explains the importance of being polite in France, which you may remember from my post on bonjour. Enjoy!

Things to see and do in Lisbon, Portugal

by Jenny and John in Brittany, who recently left Stockport, England to live in France where they are renovating a house to create a B&B.

lisbonLisbon is an amazing city, there is so much to do and so many places to visit, I am not going to go into much detail as the pictures say more than a thousand words.

The one thing I would recommend though is to go on the trams, we did not work them out and just jumped on one we saw, you can pay on the tram or get a day pass (the day pass is highly recommended as this allows you to travel all day and costs approx the same as two rides when you pay on the tram).

We travelled to the end of the line and then back again, the tram ride is fascinating as at times you can touch the buildings you are passing it gets so close. Read more

Inside the Hungarian Parliament Building

by Adelina from Pack Me To, a Chinese American who’s been traveling for as long as she can remember and has lived in the Netherlands and Hungary. She loves telling stories, and eating and exploring her way around the world.

budapest_parliamentVisiting the Parliament building in Budapest has been on my to do list for a long time. I had seen photos of the inside of the Hungarian Parliament building, which looked spectacular, and I wanted to see it for myself. A building that looks so magnificent on the outside is sure to look glorious inside right? I was not wrong.

I had a bit of a false start on my visit to the Parliament. The first time I went, I was informed that the tour for the day was only 30 minutes long instead of the regular 45 minutes, but the price was the exactly same. I decided to go back another day. Read more

It pays to be polite in France

by Margo Letsz from The Curious Rambler, who lives in Nice, France where she likes to bask in the sunshine, study the French language and blog

At this café in Nice, France, minding your manners can significantly reduce the price of your coffee.

question-010Of course, this was meant as a humorous way to remind customers to be polite, but it’s a great illustration of the French attitude toward good manners.

In France the “courtesy words and phrases” are very important and NOT optional.  Fortunately, they’re easy to master, but if you can’t manage them in French, at least say them in English.  More than likely, the French will understand you and think that you’re a polite person who doesn’t speak French – which is, of course, much better than being thought of as a rude person who doesn’t speak French. So if you want to be polite in France (and I’m sure you do), here are some easy words and phrases (along with my attempt at phonetic pronunciation) to help you on your way. Read more

Friday’s French – S’il vous plait

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Last week, I talked about the use of bonjour in French. This week, I want to comment on another very common expression – s’il vous plaît (or s’il te plaît in the familiar form). It literally means “”if it pleases you but, like bonjour, it is not necessarily used under the same circumstances as please.

To start off with, the so-called magic word is not used as frequently in French as it is in English. A child asking for an ice-cream should say s’il te plaît maman or s’il te plaît papa. However, if he is asked if he wants an ice-cream, the answer is more likely to be oui, je veux bien and not oui, s’il te plaît. This is particularly so in the case of adults who would never say oui, s’il vous plaît but simply oui or oui, je veux bien when offered something to eat or drink. Veux is from the verb vouloir “to want” so je veux bien literally means “I want well” and is not directly translatable.

If you want to ask someone politely to help you do something, you’d say est-ce que tu veux bien m’aider and not aide-moi s’il te plaît which is much more abrupt and corresponds more to “help me, will you”.

The very frequent “yes thanks” used in English is not possible in French. You can say non, merci or just merci WHICH MEANS NO unless the context indicates otherwise, but never oui merci. I can remember when my father was in France once and we went to visit friends who didn’t speak English. He understood he was being asked if he wanted a beer and replied merci. I decided not to say anythng until he expressed surprise at not being given anything to drink!v

You’d never see a sign saying S’il vous plaît, ne mangez pas dans le bus instructing people not to eat in the bus but Veuillez ne pas manger dans le bus, veuillez being the polite command form of the verb vouloir mentioned above, which isn’t translatable either. It very roughly means “would you”. You’ll see veuillez in several contexts such as Veuillez faire l’appoint which means that you should give the exact change.

In Belgium and in the north of France, s’il vous plaît is also used when someone gives you something. For example, a waitressr will say s’il vous plaît when she sets down your plate in a restaurant. It is also used instead of je vous en prie (you’re welcome, literally I pray you) in response to thank you.

Attracting the waiter's attention
Attracting the waiter’s attention

And while we’re talking of restaurants, you can use s’il vous plaît to attract the attention of a waiter, raising your hand at the same time with your fingers together (as opposed to apart when you wave).

Do you know of any other differences between the English use of please and French use of s’il vous plaît?

Friday’s French – Bonjour

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Now you might wonder why I am writing a post about something as basic as bonjour which everyone knows means “hello”.

However, Black Cat and I were having a discussion the other day about WHEN and HOW it is used in French which is quite different from the English use of hello.

Japanese cherry blossoms at Parc des Sceaux. Absolutely nothing to do with bonjour but we finally got there on Wednesday and it was breathtaking
Japanese cherry blossoms at Parc des Sceaux. Absolutely nothing to do with the subject but we finally got there on Wednesday and it was breathtaking so I wanted to share

If I am in a supermarket in Australia and want to ask the man filling the shelves where the coffee is, the most polite way is to go up to him and say, “Excuse-me, but can you tell me where the coffee is”.

Now, if I do that in France: “Excusez-moi de vous déranger, mais savez-vous où se trouve le café?“, I am likely to get a nasty look. The person will say, “Bonjour” and wait for me to reply “Bonjour“, then I have to ask the question again and will get a helpful answer.

If you go into a bakery or a butcher’s shop or even a doctor’s surgery, you should always say bonjour to the people present, and it’s even more polite to follow it with messieurs, or mesdames or messieurs dames depending on who’s present. You can also walk in and say messieurs dames without bonjour.

Just one tiny section of the Japense cherry tree grove
Just one tiny section of the Japense cherry tree grove

There is no equivalent to our good morning or good afternoon . Bon matin doesn’t exist, although bon après-midi  does (or bonne après-midi because après-midi is one of the rare words that can be both masculine and feminine and keep the same meaning) but that is something you say on leaving and  it means “have a good afternoon” which, of course, is quite different.

You can start saying bonsoir instead of bonjour from about 5 or 6 pm onwards, particularly when it’s dark in winter. Bonne nuit is only used when someone is going to bed.

So if bon après-midi means have a “good afternoon”, how to you say “have a good day?” The answer is bonne journée, as opposed to bonjour because the ée ending indicates something that is ongoing. Very occasionally, you might hear passez une bonne matinée (have a good morning) but never bonne matinée by itself ! Bonne soirée means have a good evening (or what’s left of it). Saying Au revoir. Bonne journée when you leave a shop will be very much appreciated.

The cherry blossoms form incredible bunches
The cherry blossoms form incredible bunches

Every morning when I wake up (provided we wake up at the same time) Jean Michel wishes me bonne journée. I really miss it when he gets up before me. Just before we begin to watch a film at the cinema, he says bon film and at the beginning of a holiday or weekend, he says bonnes vacances  or bon weekend.

Now what about salut? This is an informal way of saying both hello and goodbye and is not used to greet the butcher, for example.

Another thing while we’re on the subject is introducing yourself. If you’re invited to dinner and there are people you don’t know, it’s perfectly acceptable to shake their hand and say, “Bonjour, je suis David“, but it’s practically unheard of to give your name otherwise unless asked.

For example, when I wasn’t strong enough to help Jean Michel get a very heavy wardrobe up the front stairs once, he went looking for help and found a man picking up his son from a birthday party next door. Neither he nor the man introduced themselves and to this day, we still don’t know his name. That, in France, is perfectly normal, but would be considered very rude in Australia.

And, I nearly forgot: you only say bonjour once to the same person the same day. After that, you say rebonjour et even just re!

I’d be interested to hear other people’s experience under similar or different circumstances.

If you want to know how to pronounce bonjour and salut, there’s a great You Tube video by French Sounds.

Next Friday: s’il vous plaît which also holds some surprises!



AllAboutFranceBadge_bisThis post is part of Lou Messugo’s All About France montly blog linky. For other posts on France, click on the link.


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