What is the etiquette here?

Yesterday we had a wood delivery. The woodman was very amiable and after delivery we invited him in for a coffee. OH apologised to him because our front door lock is broken and we have to come through the side door. The woodman has now insisted that he will come on Monday and mend our lock. He said an enterprise would be expensive and it may only need a new mechanism which he will go with my husband to fetch once they’ve got the lock out.
What we are not sure of is should we pay him or at least offer payment and if so how much? He has not indicated that it is anything other than a kind gesture. As he is 66 he may have time on his hands.
We don’t want to cause any offence either way.
Also we have no idea if he can actually mend a lock.
He is a cousin of our neighbours down the lane and knows our French neighbours who recommended him for the wood.

Hi Teresa

Sounds like he is a nice, helpful chap. Frankly, I would not offer money. You are his “wood” customer, hence you have become a “friend” (or so it seems around here) and friends help one another… 'nuff said.

He has a good provenance (unless your neighbours hate you :wink:)

why not ask him, outright, if he has ever mended a lock before…

If your husband is amenable, let the woodman work alongside your husband… between them, all boys together… they should get the lock out… and then it is a trip to the quincaillerie or wherever (taking the faulty lock)… to replace whatever is not working properly.

This “event” will cement your friendship, not only with the woodman, but the neighbours et al…


Thanks. That is what we’ll do. Yes, my husband would definitely help as much as he is able, a carpenter once told me to never let my husband touch a door! That was a bad attempt at planing though.
He’s is a very nice man and said he has English neighbours whom he likes. Normally I would bake cakes but he declined the sugar for his coffee saying he had a problem although he ate a biscuit I had put on his saucer.
He doesn’t speak English and talks very fast although my husband seems to understand him better than me, he seemed amused when I asked ‘plus lentement, s’il vous plait.’

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It may well be that your husband can do a return favour one of these days… :hugs:

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Where I grew up in the South West of England favours were exchanged. When I moved to West Sussex I gained access to a similar network of useful friends but there every favour had a price attached and those who were wanting payment were keen to pay if a favour was returned. I didn’t like it. Here in rural France I find it much more like it was in my youth, refreshing.


always good to offer something…je peut vous payer quelque chose? probably he will say no thanks from what you have said, then of course its … une biere peut-etre, ou une pastis…etc

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I wouldn’t offer money. If he’s not a sugar person then maybe bake a savory cake? A french staple for someone of his age…


Me too… no money should change hands… it would be embarrassing… IMO

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My husband said perhaps we should give him a bottle of one of our better wines.

Nice idea… but go carefully… giving wine to a French man can be a no-no.

We took a bottle of wine and handed it to our host… I had made some special chocolates for his diabetic wife… she was thrilled… but her OH… mmm… furrowed brow… Why are you bringing wine ??? I swiftly explained that we had bought it on another car trip and would appreciate his thoughts on it…as we, of course, have very little experience and/or knowledge of these things…

Brilliant smiles… phew… that was a close shave…

Changing a lock is actually not that difficult… so he will probably be quite happy just to be helping… that is how folk are. You can make biscuits/invite him or whatever… further into this blossoming friendship…

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You’re very quick thinking. My husband was invited to dinner with neighbours when I was in the UK so he took a really good bottle of wine and told them it was not to open with the meal but for them to put away for another time. They seemed very happy with that.

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thankfully, it was a delicious wine… and, yes, I am used to quick thinking… it was a major part of my job back in UK…:relaxed:

I’m guessing that he’s just doing it because he figures he can and it’s not a super big deal to come do it - after all, you’re his “wood customer”, and you’ve offered up coffee - a friendly gesture, that he probably feels is deserving of another.

I’m not the right person to ask because I’ve got absolutely no clue about proper etiquette and rely heavily on my French girlfriend to do it all for me…


:grin::grin::grin: you need not only rely on your girlfriend, Ben… the forum is a useful source of information too…:sunglasses::sunglasses:

Eh, I know - just that my personal way of doing it is to always offer coffee, or water, or juice, or heck, some wine if they want it - along with something to nibble on. Which apparently seems a little “odd”, and while I’m able to think quickly, I can’t verbalise it in French yet :wink:

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Ben… do you mean you offer refreshments to someone who is working…??

or when they have finished… ??

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Usually when they’re working, I guess. I usally have a pot of coffee going, so whenever I get some for myself I’ll offer to whoever else is around. And if I haven’t done it while they’re working I’ll ask them if they want some when they’re done.

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Yep, with you now… in UK we would do the same… offer them a drink whenever we were having one…and they would sit down, relax and enjoy… :relaxed:

But it was explained to us, from day one here in France…

“my men are here to work Stella, please let them get on with it.”… said in careful French with a big smile on his face to let me know I was not being scolded… :hugs:

and that has been the norm ever since…

Although, during major village works in 2012, I did do the rounds with lots of water… most of which they poured over themselves to cool down…

When I first arrived here with all my worldly goods and Border Collies to fetch my keys from the notaire…it was the man (not the seller) at the top of my little culdesac who came to explain everything about my new home…which keys were for what…how to switch the water on and off…how to switch the electric on and off etc lots of invaluable assistance…all in French…he even gestured about avoiding stinging nettles as if perhaps he thought that we don’t have stinging nettles in uk…which I thought was lovely of him…x :slight_smile:

Over the coming days he installed a new mail box for me which the previous owner had taken with her…I took him a big box of red wine…

When my water heater failed it was he who made a call for me and I had a new water heater installed within 24 hours…again I gave him a gift of red wine…

When my elderly next door neighbours first started giving me bags of vegetables from their garden I responded by buying them cakes every time I went shopping…when he told me he was diabetic I stopped that…now when I have fruit and nuts from the trees on my land then I give them in exchange…if there are times I feel that they are giving me far more than I’m giving them then I’ll buy more peaches…tangerines…apricots etc especially to give to them…

When the man comes to cut my field then I know in advance how much it will be so I pay in cash but with just a little extra for a drink…

The wonderful service I get from my local garage has been second to none so last time I was in there I took them a bottle of red wine and artisan chocolates both milk chocolate and dark chocolate…he opened the dark chocolates to share whilst I was there so I’ve made a mental note that he probably likes dark chocolate as much as I do…x :slight_smile:

Not being a great cook I wouldn’t feel comfortable offering any of my home made creations…I kind of figure that I won’t go far wrong with wine and chocolate as there will most likely always be someone in their circles who would appreciate it…x :slight_smile:

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If you brought me both milk and dark chocolates I would gladly share the milk but keep the dark all for myself. :slight_smile: