The essential French “Politeness”- Politesse


The French are known to be extremely polite- even if they don't really mean it from the bottom of their heart. This is pretty similar to British culture. I guess it is a colonial thing 😉 German culture doesn't over emphasize on politeness, but being more direct and frank. French culture on the other hand seems more towards beating around the bush.Let's take a look at some key points, as to how one can be polite in France.

1. When you interact- "Smile"

Whether the opposite person smiles or not, it is your duty to smile- especially if you are a foreigner. This kind of breaks the ice during the interaction and makes it a pleasant one. In any case, a smile doesn't cost you anything, so do it more often! 🙂

But be careful don't go around smiling at everyone. That could make people think you are Loco 😀

It is only when you interact with someone, it is apt to smile.

2. Use certain phrases

It is polite to use the following phrases where necessary in your sentences:

  • Monsieur – Sir
  • Madame – Lady, Madam
  • Mademoiselle – Miss, to be used with younger (too young to be married) women

When addressing someone, it is much more polite in French to follow with "Monsieur", "Madame" or "Mademoiselle". In English, it may be a bit over the top, depending where you come from. Not in France.

  • Oui – Yes 
  • Non – No
  • Merci – Thank you.
  • Bonjour – hi, hello.
  • Au revoir – Bye
  • S'il vous plaît – please (using vous)/ S'il te plaît – please (saying tu)
  • Je vous en prie – you're welcome (using vous) / Je t'en prie (saying tu)
  • Désolé(e) – sorry
  • Pardon – sorry
  • Comment ? – Excuse me – when you couldn't hear someone.
  • Excusez-moi (for vous) / excuse-moi (for tu) – excuse-me
  • À vos souhaits (for vous) / à tes souhaits (for tu) – bless you (after someone sneezes)

3. Tu versus Vous 

Tu is the informal "you" apt for children and friends, and addressing people whom you know very well. Vous is the formal equivalent, used with unknown people (even if they are younger to you), older people and colleagues (when they are not well known to you yet). It is very important to make the demarcation between tu and vous whilst speaking in France, else it could be considered impolite.

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