Don't Exaggerate


Saying Thank You and Sorry the French Way

I'm a people watcher, it's what I do. I'm never bored standing in line, I'm content by myself, because I people watch. And through my people watching, I have observed that French people don't thank people over the top and they don't apologize profusely. Does that make them smug? Or better than everyone? Or does that make us Americans kiss asses? Or people that grovel? Whatever it is, it's always interesting to watch tourists thank them over the top. Their reactions are great!

So what do I mean about the French not exaggerating their thank you's or their sorry's? Well for starters, when someone helps someone with something, like giving them directions or answering a question, a simple "merci monsieur/madame" is enough. In the US we say "thank you so much for helping me, thanks again, I really appreciate it." Or when someone bumps into you, most french people will say "pardon" whereas in the US we will say "I am so sorry!" And when Americans use their American thank you in Paris, the French always seem to scatter away as fast as possible. It looks like they feel awkward after the huge thank you they just received. And I'm sure that in America, the French are probably perceived as rude by their barely there thank you. Is one better than the other? No because the cultural norm of each country is different, and it only causes confusion and unfair judgements when they cross over.

So if you travel to France, a simple merci or pardon will do. In France there is no need to thank someone profusely for doing what is expected of them, but a merci is a must to not be rude. Any more than that and it looks like you're kissing their butts.

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