I agree with what said in this article "bonsoir instead of bonjour is acceptable at any point after which you believe the day to be “in decline”.
I usually say it after about 5pm or, in the winter, once the sun starts to go down. I’ve not had any funny looks yet!
It makes me think about the word “tantôt”, not used in every area in France. In a lot of places it means this afternoon. In Normandy, it depends !
“Je l’ai vu tantôt” : past tense so means I saw him earlier
“Je vais le voir tantôt” : future tense so means I will see him later
What was difficult for me is I couldn’t know if it was this morning, yesterday, this afernoon, tomorow … Never used it
And you shouldn’t have a funny look, you’re polite after all
That’s not a word I know! I wonder if it’s used down here? Will ask my French step-son.
Here is a bit more about it (but not a lot !)
Elizabeth… the other day I “grilled” my optician… because he had called out “bonjour” to a client who was leaving… (the lady had appeared from the depths of the shop and was saying “au revoir” to everyone she passed on her way to the door…).
He explained that he had not seen the lady before the moment when she left… hence, he said “bonjour/hello” … I had not seen her either and in my ignorance, I simply called out “au revoir/goodbye” … his reasoning was he could not say goodbye because he had not said hello… which does make some sort of sense…
Do you think this is just a local custom ?
He sounds a bit “psychorigid” to me ! As I said to Mandy, it’s already nice to be polite. If the owner of the shop would do that to me, I would find it a bit offensive !
I did think it strange… but it was smiles all round… so… I think it must be a local custom… His shop is very busy and he is the boss… so folk must be happy with him…or they would go elsewhere…
I once asked an employee in a shop : “excusez moi, où se trouve … (I can’t remember what)”.
He looked at me in the eyes, and said “bonjour !”. Oups ! Fair enough ! I now always say “Bonjour !, excusez moi, où se trouve …”
I have heard/used “bonjour et au revoir” in this situation.
Me too… and that usually gets me a smile …
Slight change of direction… about the tutoyer/vouvoyer issue. My next door neighbour is 82 and I am 80, so he’s the senior. We’ve had a very good relationship for three years, meet often for coffee and a chat in his kitchen, watch TV and play domino’s together, do gardening and brico together, I bathed his eyes for six weeks when he had shingles last year, he gives us tarte tatin when he cooks it etc. So we are pretty close. When he closes his shutters at night he calls out a greeting to me in the garden.
But he’s never suggested that we use “tu” with each other. Would it seem presumptuous of me to suggest it? It would make life a bit easier for me, as I am stuck with vous with everyone now, even the chickens. Can’t be right, but I’m nervous. At age 80 I am vous to everyone I meet, and don’t feel secure about breaking out.
Advice from fully-fledged Frenchies please…
I know for me it’s very difficult to start using “tu” when I’m used to using “vous”. It’s easier when it starts from the begining of a relationship. Maybe you could explain to him, in a conversation, that “vous” is more difficult to use for native English speakers and see if he suggests using “tu” ?
Is he someone who is generally pretty correct in his life? Ie not an old hippy or someone who spent his youth swanning around the left bank? If not then it could be hard as for him it may well be a mark of respect rather than wishing to keep you at a distance and he could be as uncomfortable with tu as you are with vous. What does he use with others?
I like Babeth’s suggestion. Failing that can you engineer a situation where you and he are with a group of people he tu-tois? That can prompt a natural change.
It’s hard, because so much of the tu-vous dilemma depends on personalities. We have become fairly friendly with two separate artisans of similar age & type to us, who we use for their services but also chat to when out and about, and have had coffee together etc. One we fell into tu-toi very naturally, the other - never in a million years amd we would never dream of suggesting it!
Thank you both JJ and EM for your sympathetic and valuable suggestions. Both are in line with my own intuitions in the matter. The neighbour in question is very traditional (as far as I can judge) and comfortably ‘set in his ways’ domestically and professionally, a widower for many years, and a countryman and ancien combattant. Aged 7 he was shot in the chest by an unknown assailant during the Normandy contre attaque, the.bullet exited via his lower abdomen.
I am full of admiration for him, and gratitude. I think that our relationship is best left as it is, respectful and warm.
Something else I’m not sure about is when to say “bonne journée” and “bonne après-midi”. Also, I’ve seen both written using “bon” and “bonne” and I don’t really know which is correct.
French is a mine field of politeness and masculine/feminine!
Après-midi is one of those words that is both masculine and feminine but the Académie Française prefers masculine. But journée is feminine only.
We have 3 words in french which are masculine when singular and feminine when plural :
Amour, délice et orgue !