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Forks, Portland, Lyon - France, Paris - France, Portland and ending up in Bellingham.... the adventures of my life!

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Advice: Beware of the Bonjour

I was walking with Bri today in Genas and I started my daily routine of 'bonjours'.  Bonjour to the woman with the stroller.  Bonjour to the group of old ladies.. I was going at it when he mentioned something I never thought about- how intricate a bonjour can be in France.

There is a certain set of social rules that come along with the simple word.  When walking through the streets you don't say it to everyone, but there are certain people you must say it to.  It's like, if you don't say it you come off as an elitist prick- but if you say it to everyone you are slightly special.  Remember, when saying the 'Bonjour', it's pronounced:  Bawnnn-jooowwwrr  not  baahnn jeeer... like I hear many Americans saying.

We got to discussing some run-downs of who exactly to say the bonjour to..

  • When entering into any store, magasin, boulanger, fromagerie, charcutier.. including all the shops where you buy clothes and accessories.  Usually you make an effort to smile, say, "Bonjour" and then continue with your shopping.  *note:  It is not an invite to divulge your private life*
  • When passing any one in your apartment building; if you live in the same area you must say 'bonjour'.  Even if you have your earbuds in and you think it's non-important- it tells a lot about your character.
  • If you recognize the person.  If it's a friend, you have to stop, give the bise, exchange some words, move on.  If it's someone you know owns a store you frequent, you just say, 'bonjour' and move on with your life.
  • When entering into a classroom.
  • At the marché (the one in public).
It sounds simple, but sometimes I am completely lost in the complexity of social rules in France.  I find it ironic that we shove each other into the Metro, but yet we only say bonjour in certain cases.  I don't even know the name of my neighbor, but every day I'm basically waving and saying hey over there, good day!

It's even more strange for an American like myself because back home the word, "hello" welcomes a conversation.  I never said hello to my neighbor, the woman down the street.  If I said anything when going into a shop it was simply to ask a question.  Ironically, once again, we say bonjour to our shop owners, but we never make small talk.  Hello, for myself, is something reserved for a conversation; not a gentle passerby way of saying, 'Have a Nice Day'... the only time we hear that is when passing through the Drive-Thru.

So.  Long story short, say your bonjours to the appropriate people and you can pass as a local- that is until one day someone asks you a questions and you give the deer-in-the-headlights look...

Today, I'm off to my favorite vegetable market in Lyon, the producer's market, where I know I'll be hauling back about 15 kilos of veggies for a mere 15€.  In case you were oh-so-curious about my weekly meal plan for Bri+Me:

TODAY:  Mon Jan 10
Couscous leftovers (amazing, Bri's mom made it)

Tue Jan 11
Oeufs Cocotte w/ Courgette gratin
Wed Jan 12

Salade Extreme aux Foies  (chicken liver salad)
Thu Jan 13
Aubergine Mozzarella w/Pasta
Fri Jan 14
Chili w/ Cornbread


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