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Old 12-05-2008, 03:12 PM   #61
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Here is the most important thing to know about Parisians. When you go into a store (or anywhere) say, "Bonjour Madame" or "Bonjour Missuer" (crappy spelling, for sure)... and then they will respect that you are civilized. Even if you speak English, and you will, they will be nicer to you. You should also know how to say bon sois, madame and bon nuit madame and things like that. It seems to be the equivalent of smiling at someone in the states. My french is awful. don't use my spelling or wording. Try a Rick Steves book for French language or the book for Paris. It should give you a decent idea of pronunciation. You can get his Paris book at the library. You also need to know that waiters just bring food like fast robots...don't take offense. You need to say l'addition (something like law-dish-ee-own) to get the bill. If you are trying to get aspirin in a pharmacy, you will walk in and say Bon Jour Madame (or messieur). Then say "Sil Vou Plait Aspirin?" or whatever. pronounce it something like see-voo-play and they will probably know more english than they can speak. It's a fabulous city. They just have different ways. Try renting the movie "Ridicule", as I think it sums up the attitudes of many parisians.

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Old 12-05-2008, 06:22 PM   #62
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The correct words/phrases are, in order

"Monsieur" but pronounced roughly as you have spelled it

"bonsoir" meaning "good evening" and pronounced while swallowing the "r"

"bonne nuit" meaning good night and pronounced roughly "bun nwee"

"s'il vous plait" meaning literally "if it pleases you" but translated as "please" and pronounced as you note.

These are a good start, but I would make an effort to learn a little more. You are quite correct, though, that they will almost certainly speak English better than you (or I) speak French.

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Old 12-05-2008, 07:09 PM   #63
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In France, shops and especially small shops are semi-private spaces. You have to behave as you would at an open house party. Everyone's invited, you are welcome to move about the place as you wish, but you have to pay your respects to the host or hostess. Therefore greeting the host or hostess on the way in and on the way out is customary.

Interestingly, this is reflected in the French language:
"je vais chez Roger" means "I am going to Roger's home". In French you don't usually say "I am going to the butcher shop", you say "je vais chez le boucher", i.e. it almost sounds like a social call as if your were visiting the butcher's home and not his place of business.
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Old 12-05-2008, 07:56 PM   #64
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Whenever traveling in a foreign country, I would always make eye contact and nod when entering a shop. Speak the greetings in the local language if you can, but people throughout the world also understand "Hello". In fact, we should remember to do this in the US too, when entering a small shop.

About open house parties, I have seen people who come to an open house, and do not bother to seek out who the hosts are.

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