Even though I’ve lived in France nearly three decades, I am constantly in learning mode.
Mind you, it’s one of my favorite things about living here. I’ve never had an unpleasant experience when someone — often MRFLIF obviously (and he has become quite indulgent over the years) — sets me back on track.
Sometimes a misstep on my part can be as banal as mispronouncing a word or something more complicated like using one of those pesky faux amis, words that often have exactly the same spelling in French and in English and at times pronounced similarly, which in my mind means the definitions are precisely the same. Not so.
Location: To rent or lease
And, formerly, two real sticklers for me, though spelled differently there is no confusion about the pronunciation and one — me being the “one” — would have thought the same meaning in both languages. One would have thought wrong. . .
Eventuellement: Possibly/perhaps/if need be/ if necessary
Actuellement: Now, at the moment, currently
(If you go here, you will discover a fun blog from which I “borrowed” the cartoon above.)
Regarding customs and practices, I don’t think, although I could be wrong, that I have committed any faux pas when it comes to those that fall into the broad category of good manners.
What slip-ups I made in the past, I’m relatively sure remain in the past. And, some of the etiquette lessons I’ve learned have been quite obscure like not handing someone the salt at table, but rather when it is requested and you’re the one in reaching distance, the salt cellar or shaker is to be placed on the table in front of the person requesting the sel. It has something to do with an ancient superstition.
On the subject of superstitions, the French think it’s bad luck to have 13 at table. My best French friend, Anne-Françoise has a “man” made out of metal, all dressed up (his colourful outfit is painted on him, no change of clothes are ever involved in his important role), who sits on a chair in the corner of her dining room.
Monsieur Quatorze, has a huge responsibility as you can imagine. He is the guest who never goes home and it doesn’t really matter if he changes the number in the dining room to nine from eight for example. He fulfils his raison d’être perfectly which is to magically change 13 to quatorze.
Once again I digress — shocking(!) — I bring up these subjects because I am reading a new book, 100 Bonnes & Mauvaises Mannières à Connaître dans La Vie by Laurence Caracalla.
I love, love, love reading these types of books, so much fun. I thought you might be entertained by some of my discoveries and advice within its pages. This will be a series, but not necessarily on consecutive days. You’ll have to tell me if you enjoy these sorts of pastimes as much as I do.
A few pearls from the book from the chapter on civility:
1. France is the world’s most popular tourist destination and the French are the “most disagreeable with tourists” (des peuples les plus détestables avec les touristes), at least the author qualifies by noting, ” at least that’s our reputation.” Her recommendation to her fellow citizens: Be “amiable” and “accommodating” pretend you’re the tourist in another country.
It seems she is recommending empathy.
2. When you’re standing in the Metro, make room for others to hold-on to the overhead bar.
3. If you’re a frightened flier, do not grab the stranger sitting next to you during takeoff and landing.
4. This one is rather sweet. . .”At the same time you teach your children the alphabet, when older people cannot find a seat on a bus or the subway, jump up and give them your seat. Make it a reflex.”
Et voila. Let me know if you would like me to continue the series. Say “oui” svp.