Travel Talk

Published on May 8th, 2013 | by Ann Rickard


Pucker up in France

If you want my advice, and you probably don’t but I’m going to give it anyway, never walk into a shop in France and ask for something without first proffering a jovial  ‘bonjour.’  You’ll be ignored otherwise.

“Bonjour, madam,’’ he replied huffily and stormed off in the direction of the toilet brushes.

Market stallholders in country villages stake their claim to a ‘bonjour’ with as much entitlement as a glam shop assistant at Louis Vuitton on the Champs Elysees.

French Kiss 3

Air Kiss

I’ve made the mistake of breezing into a shop in France, asking for something without giving the requisite ‘bonjour’ and been given a dark look followed by a steely ‘bonjour, Madam, bonjour.’

As I prowled the aisles in Mr. Bricolage (the French equivalent of Bunnings) looking for a paella pan (don’t ask why I would be making a paella in France, I just was) I asked a passing assistant in my appalling French where I might find such a large pan.

“Bonjour, madam,’’ he replied huffily and stormed off in the direction of the toilet brushes.

You must also offer a friendly ‘au revoir’ as you leave the store.  Even if you have just browsed.  If not you will find a loud and pointed ‘au revoir’ rushing out the door with you on a hostile blast of air.

So don’t say you haven’t been given the insider’s tip from one who has made the ‘bonjour’ and ‘au revoir’ mistake many times over.

While you are practising your ‘bonjours’ you might like to prepare your lips for France by giving them massive infusions of balm.  They will be puckering up many times each day of your visit for the obligatory cheek kissing.

Just as important as bonjour and au revoir is the hello and goodbye kissing (but not to shopkeepers, just to people you get to know during your visit.)

From New Zealand

Meet someone at the market in the morning, do the two-cheek kiss (or three depending on where in France you are), run into that same person out buying a baguette in the afternoon and you must cheek kiss all over again, and kiss yet again if you chance upon him or her that same evening in the local bar.

There is no escaping the cheek kiss in France.  So prepare and pucker. 

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About the Author

is a Noosa (Australia) local and author of six successful books, all humorous travel narratives. In 2005 Ann won the prestigious ASTW’s Australian Travel Writer of the Year and in 2007 she won the ASTW Travel Book of the Year. Ann takes a culinary tour to the South of France in June every year . Ann writes travel, dining and columns for the Sunshine Coast Daily and is the Life editor of the Noosa News. Ann also maintains a well read and popular blog site. Ann’s travels have seen her explore cuisines all over the world.

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