Plumber - tu or vous?

Please, if you think this is trivial, just pass.
The local plumber (who we’ve had a couple of times before) has just sorted our drains out- he’s a splendid chap and isvcoming back next week to do another job. I initially addressed him as monsieur and used vous. He has always used his first name to me, and vous . After this visit, I have asked if we might use tu and given him my prenom. Am I being too familiar? (Just read this back and it reminds me of the sort of letter that used to appear in the Girls’ Own Paper at the turn of the last century… )

I have started to use Tu when I would address someone with their forename.

Hopefully this is OK.

I have to admit it would be a long time before I called a tradesman Tu, if the only time I saw them was when they came to do jobs. Years, probably.
We are on first name terms with many people who we still use Vous with.
But maybe we are old fashioned. (Although not quite of the generation where married couples Vous’d each other as I believe used to be the case.)
I will be interested in other peoples responses.


We got to know the lady who worked in the local insurance agency and after a very long time, suggested she call us by our first names. She recoiled,horrified, and said “Mais vous êtes des clients!” Big mistake that and made us very nervous about other occasions… Fortunately we hadn’t asked about tutoyer-ing :smiley:

On the other hand we do all use first names with the menuiserie team we are seeing rather a lot of. I’m still sticking to vous for the present though…

Thinking about this, for me it would be closer to say that I probably use Tu when I would address somebody by a nickname.
For instance a Jean whose nickname is JoJo. If I felt able to call him JoJo I would probably also feel comfortable tutoying him, it would mean we were quite close and informal with each other. If I called him Jean but it would feel wrong to call him JoJo it would also feel wrong to call him Tu.
There are many people who call me by my first name and say vous, but those who know me well enough to call me Sandy, generally also call me tu.

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We have known our plumber for years, call him by his first name, worked closely with him on our renovation, and have had drinks with him with a mutual friend (who we both tu-toi). I would never tu-toi him. It is disrespectful.

And I would never ask him, as it’s for him to make the first move if he wishes.

And having asked him what the hell can the poor man now say? How could he say no to a client? It would take someone quite sure of his ground. He can only say yes, as you are his client…….

As an immigrant I am perhaps a bit more cautious, but do not move to tu-toi-ing easily. In our Pilates class everyone uses tu-toi (most have known each other forever) and so do I to all of them. One woman is significantly older than I, so outside the class I would vous-vous her. After about 4 years she suggested we could tu-toi outside the class as well as within it….

I suggest having suggested it you continue to vous-vous unless he mentions it, and let the subject drop!


Is there a convention for who should make the first move?
The local or immigrant? The elder? etc

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Between nationals of the country, it’s the elder but for us immigrants, I haven’t a clue…

Yes I think basically it is up to the elder/the one in the senior position/the one that is in a position to do the other one a favour. In many relationships it is clear which person that is. When you are new in France, it will usually be the other person.
Of course it is not always mutual and it does not always involve asking first. An adult will automatically tutoie a child but the child will vousvoie the adult. A boss might tutoie the staff individually, because it is convention within the team to tutoie each other, but the workers will still vouvoie the boss, simply because he is the boss.
Quite honestly I think it is safer to stick to Vous unless you actually feel uncomfortable saying Vous. If you are not sure whether it is appropriate to move to Tu, then it probably is not. But again, I may be being old fashioned in my view.

Interesting topic. I did a work placement in France (Aude) in 2012 and from the outset ‘vous-vous’-ed everyone. On the second or third day, my boss took me aside and said there was no need to use ‘vous’ with anyone in the company including management - with the one exception of the CEO whom I was unlikely to meet anyway.
The next time I was sat with some co-workers I ‘tu-toi’ away and one actually whispered to another “Thank God he has stopped with the ‘vous’”.
Maybe this company was an exception to the rule or maybe it was a South of France thing?

Not just the south of France. As far as I have discovered so far, many companies do the same within the company itself. My partner was working in France (Normandie) about the same time you are talking about @Mike313 and that was “tu” throughout as well.

I think it is usual to tutoie all your immediate work colleagues. Team spirit and all that.
Depending on how big the company is, this may extend right across all departments to peoplein other sections / buildings / branches that you rarely see and might only talk to once a year. And it may extend to management. Probably these days it usually does, I think things are becoming less formal.

In the 3 areas in which I have been involved in France, HGV driver, petanque and the the dansant with the oldies (most even older than me), they have always used tu from the start, well the oldies a little later but not long, and it has led me to make some faux pas with others not in my immediate orbit. But I have never been made to feel uneasy, I think the French make allowances for foreigners, especially the Anglos as our language is almost alone in having a distinction.

As a general rule I assume they will make the first move.

God no, horrors, vous all the way - office colleagues who have worked together for years will still call each other vous. People call their parents-in-law vous forever. However once you have started to say tu you can’t go back and you are foreign anyway so nobody cares.

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I care!

Sorry, I was imprecise, nobody French cares about foreigners, particularly English-speaking ones, not knowing when to tutoie and vouvoie. It is part of your charm that you don’t get these things :joy:

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Did you mean charm or have another word in mind? :wink:

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Having just seen that written - I suddenly know what it means, heard the phrase often and knew the meaning but did not link it directly to the French doh!

They may not care, but some people can still be offended. Which I prefer not to do if I can help it.

Well actually I have seen people who worked together for years use a mix. Like you know they tutoie and you see it regularly at certain moments, and then in a meeting with a lot of others and for a while afterwards they will stick to vous.

I’m the same as Jane. It’s vous all the way especially with tradesmen, who are really craftsmen here it seems, and a superior being in France. Have you ever struggled to find a tradesman in France? It’s vous all the way if I find one.