5 Paris phrases

Not just “s’il vous plait, merci” (please and thank-you)

1. Bonjour, bonsoir, bonne journée, bon appétit, bon film: Parisians aren’t as rude as their reputation and they tend to be nicer if tourists use the proper formalities. When you go into a shop or restaurant, always say bonjour, or in the evening, bonsoir. At the table, to your fellow, bon appétit. When you leave, au revoir, bonne journée (bye, have a nice day) or …soirée (…evening). This applies to almost anything. At the cinema they might say, bon film! Or my personal favourite, applicable anytime, bonne continuation! (Have a nice continuing-whatever-you’re-doing!)

2. (Technically non-verbal, but) The Gallic Shrug: Used in any and all situations to absent oneself from responsibility. Shoulders and eyebrows go up, mouth goes down. Can be used in supermarkets, at the metro information office, on the street. Maybe they don’t understand your accent, or don’t care to try. For extra emphasis, say bof! while shrugging.

3. Je peux passer avec toi? To avoid buying tickets for the metro, people will often try to go through the turnstile with you, uncomfortably close behind. The appropriate French reply is too rude to write, so maybe just hit them with your handbag. Or scowl and tut.

4. T’as du feu? Literally, do you have fire? Which would be funnier, but it really means “have you got a light?” A very common refrain, as the Parisians are still heavy smokers, and especially useful for picking people up. If you don’t, or aren’t interested, you can reply, Non, je ne fume pas. “I don’t smoke.”

5. Un café: After, before or maybe during their cigarettes the Parisians need coffee. Choose from un café (espresso) or un café allongé (a black coffee). For a milky coffee, like a latte, ask for un café crème, or for a macchiato, un noisette (because with just a splash of milk, the coffee is the colour of hazelnuts). You can ask for a cappucino but they are invariably disappointing. Try Ten Belles or Kooka Boora for proper coffee.

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