Greeting in France: Polite French Customs for Meeting People

In France, greeting others and taking other people into consideration is the most basic pillar of socializing. From early morning, you can hear ‘Bonjour!’ spoken everywhere with a busy but happy tone.

Cafe France

French people actively greet each other. Also with people who don’t know each other do so in staircases, elevators and many other places where you come in close contact with others. This is considered normal and if you incline to join the fun, you could be mistaken as bad mannered or even weird.

What makes things easy, is that you often answer back with the same words that you are being greeted with. Sometimes you may add an “to you too” expression, especially when you are approached enthusiastically.

  • Bonne journée ! Have a good day!
  • A vous aussi ! To you too!

Calling someone a Mrs, Ms or Mr, as well as addressing people formally is part of common manners and not associated with any cocky activity. Main rule is to just remember to greet and you will be fine! You can add a Madame, Monsieur or Mademoiselle, but can go without just as well.

Especially with people you don’t know, formal manners are often needed. Unless they are little children or very young. However the gap towards calling people with first-name terms is narrowing with time and you may even consider calling your colleagues with their first name. In France, words and phrases are the easiest bit but body language counts in as well.

2 comments

  1. I’ve only used Bonjour! on my travels.
    Good to know other expressions too., and how to answer back… 🙂

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