Here’s chapter one of our series on the 10 must-know things that’ll make every Paris newcomer’s life easy.

Encore, Bonjour!

My name is Alice, and I was born and raised in the heart of Paris, in the 6th arrondissement. From the time I was young, my parents taught me the importance of always greeting people with a warm “Bonjour” or “Bonsoir”. For us Parisians, it’s more than just a cultural norm – it’s a way of life.

When I started working for Total Energy, I met a new colleague named Jack. He was from New York and had just moved to Paris. The first time I greeted Jack with a “Bonjour”, he just nodded his head in response.

At first, I thought it was just a matter of him not knowing the local customs. But as the days went on, I noticed that Jack never said bonjour to anyone. Not to me, not to our other colleagues, not even to our boss (alright, this is an exaggeration and I hope you get the point). It was like he was living in his own little bubble, completely oblivious to the importance of this small gesture.

One day, I decided to confront Jack about his lack of “Bonjour”. 

“Jack, can I ask you something? 

Why don’t you say ‘Bonjour’?” 

He looked genuinely confused and explained that in New York, people didn’t always greet each other in the elevator or the hallway (bang, another exaggeration, but you get the point).

I tried to explain to him that in Paris (and in France for that matter), saying bonjour was more than just a cultural norm – it was a way to connect with people and show respect for their traditions. I shared a personal experience with him, about how saying “Bonjour” to a grumpy old woman in my neighborhood completely transformed her demeanor and made her smile.

I explained how saying “Bonjour” was an essential part of Parisian life, and that it was a way to acknowledge people’s presence. 

It is a way to connect with strangers and make them feel welcome, even in the smallest of ways. A simple “Bonjour” could make all the difference in someone’s day, and it is a sign of politeness, even if you were just passing by.

A few weeks later, it was in winter, and Jack, myself, and colleagues had planned to spend the evening on the champs elysées for the Christmas lights and market. As we strolled through the crowds, I couldn’t help but notice how Jack had become more comfortable with the French language and the Parisian way of life. He greeted vendors and passersby with a cheerful “Bonjour” and even struck up a conversation with a group of locals. I felt a sense of pride and joy, seeing him embrace the cultural norms of his new home.

As the evening came to a close, Jack turned to me and said, “Alice, thank you for teaching me the importance of ‘Bonjour’. It’s amazing how a small gesture like that can make such a big difference.” I smiled, feeling grateful for the opportunity to share my culture with him.

The lesson here is simple – saying “Bonjour” is more than just a cultural norm, it’s a way to connect with people and show that you respect their traditions. It’s a small gesture that can go a long way in making someone’s day just a little bit better. So, if you’re new to Paris, remember to always say “Bonjour” – you’ll be surprised at how far it can take you.

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