Parley-Vous Manners?



Tags: travel etiquette, travel customs, travel manners, etiquette questions, manners and etiquette, french english, english french, how to speak french, learn french in france

Ms. Behaving at Royal Ascot

MS. BEHAVING admits to a fondness for La Belle France but is dismayed that sometimes there is, how do you say, some intimidation involved. There needn’t be!

A READER WRITES: Is it really rude to go to France without knowing French? Will the French actually look down on me for not speaking the language or is all that just a rumor?

MS. BEHAVING REPLIES: Ma belle: It is no more rude to go French-less to France than it is to neglect to learn Danish before a jaunt to Copenhagen or Catalan for your visit to Barcelona. In her extensive travels Ms. Behaving has found that just about everyone wants to practice their English. On you. (Hint: in France, address people by “Monsieur” or “Madame” first and they will kick into English tout suite with kindness.) For maximum courteous impact wherever you go, do try to master how to say “please” and “thank you” in the local language. That goes for English-speaking countries, too! Manners open wonderful communication doors. Trust Ms. B.


A READER WRITES: On a French train recently, I was plagued by a loud cell-blabber. If I’m in a foreign country, can I still tell the locals to lower their volume, or will I be seen as the rude American?

MS. BEHAVING REPLIES: You don’t know the French phrase “If you don’t shut up I shall hit your head with a stale baguette”? Pity. Know that you are not alone, and other passengers – from many lands, no doubt, and many of them French – are suffering too. Ms. Behaving gives you permission to look the offender in the eye, smile fetchingly, and say “Si vous plait” while using the universal hand signal (no, not that one!) to “lower”: flat hand starting at your eyes, lowering down to your chin. Smiling all the while. If the offender fails to comply, think of the many new friends you’ll make on the train! Bon chance.


WHAT’S YOUR QUANDARY? Have questions about etiquette, local or global travel customs or awkward moments on the road? Fear not! Ms. Behaving is ready to answer. Send your queries (putting "Ms. Behaving" in the subject line) HERE.


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