Bonjour! The MOST important French Word…
Bonjour! If only someone had explained the importance of this one little French word to us before our first trip to Paris in 2010. If you learn nothing else before your trip, heed this advice.
Even if you do not know any other word in French, ‘bonjour’ will open doors! This sounds crazy, I know, but it’s oh so very true. In the event you aren’t familiar with the word, bonjour means hello or good day. The word holds much cultural significance around here. It’s pertinent that you say hello first, no matter what, even if you are bleeding profusely and need help (I’m only half joking) — or it’s true, some people may not be as helpful. Who knew that one little word could be so important?
I was fortunate enough to have visited Paris as a young girl when my father was stationed with the army in Germany, but that didn’t stop me from dreaming of the day I would return to the City of Love with the love of my life. When that time finally came, I was excited to experience it all with Doug. I still remember very vividly getting into the city around midnight. We were having a bit of difficulty finding our hotel — we did not have google maps back then (click here for the app we do recommend) because we didn’t have cell phones with us. We knew we were in the vicinity of the hotel. So naturally when we saw a lady speaking with someone behind a welcome desk in another building, we decided to pop in and ask for assistance.
“Excuse me, can you help me please? We are looking for the Marriott hotel….” The words were barely out of our mouths and the lady responded with a flippant wave of her hand, “Non, Non I can not help you.” What?! Did that really happen? Yes, I promise it did. Needless to say, that was the first strike for Paris and we hadn’t been in the city an hour yet. But…had we gone in and said, “Bonsoir! (because at night you say good evening as your hello) Excuse me, can you help me please?” Things very likely would have gone a little differently, especially if we’d have thrown in a, “Parlez-vous anglais madame?” It’s true that the French like to at least feel that you are trying in some way to speak their language. I can understand it may get annoying with all the tourists practically demanding the French speak English all the time, without even giving respect and pause to that one word, that one little word that can literally open doors.
Funny story….turned out our hotel we were looking for was only another block down on the same side of the street. I’m fairly certain she knew where it was, but we didn’t follow the cultural norms, so we were literally brushed off and away. And hey, it’s possible she was simply a grumpy person by nature. Because the good news I must share with you, is that we have been living here for close to two years now, and everyone has been quite helpful, beyond helpful at times. This first encounter story with Paris is the only one I can think of that has left me feeling so aggravated, but you better believe I now say bonjour ALL the time! And so far it seems to be working! 🙂