Are Parisians impolite?

Lina, the illustrator behind Instagram’s @parisianpostcards, joins us to discuss French politeness, the whole tu and vous thing, and whether or not French people are rude.

You might recognize Lina’s work from our logo, and she also drew the picture above. To top it off, she has taken over our own Instagram this week, sharing pictures from some of the things we talked about. Check out a sample below.

Anyway, here is the audio from the chat. What do you think? Should we all just “kill the vous” as Lina said? Should Oliver have complained when the cocktails were spilled on his head? Does James speak French too quickly?

Join the discussion on Facebook.

Notes: We were also joined in the studio by the show’s self-professed number one fan, Dingo Mike from Coutume cafe – a colleague of Tom Clark from episode three.

And here’s the tu/vous flow chart we discussed.


4 thoughts on “Are Parisians impolite?

  1. suggestion ! You need to go further about the “vous/tu”… (if you’re not about to kill it now).

    There is something unpleasant (or really unbearable ?), especially in the professionnal area, especially if you are young and if you are young AND a woman : it’s worst.

    I mean : the question is not only “what do you have to use : tu or vous ?”, but : “what are you suppose to do when somebody uses “tu” ? Are you always allowed to use “tu” ? Is this ok to be called “tu” if you are supposed to say “vous” ?”

    “does a parallel have to be used when two adult persons talk togother ?”.
    It should. But it’s not. And it’s something about disrespect AND power. And a way to crush your interlocutor.

    For example : in aristocracy, the servant say “vous” to the Master, but the Master also says “vous” to each of his servants….
    It’s quite polite. Isn’t it ?

    And in your private life, as a young person, always says “vous” to an older one : if he wants to use “tu”, he will invite you to do the same… otherwise he should use “vous”.
    Never ask. Like with your “father in law”. It’s a bit rude. It’s too direct for a french one (above 50).
    Let him say “tu” or invite you to say “tu”… otherwise it will be the “vous” between you both.
    That’s the polite way.

    But there is a world where it could not be polite anymore…
    When your boss says “tu” and expects you to say “vous” (listen around you : your colleagues are using “vous” ???) only because you’re young (and/or a woman), although you’re not a child since a decade… Be carefull. There’s something wrong on the table…
    If you are obviously funny and well known for your humour : you may use “tu” to let your boss realize the situation is unconfortable (or unfair ?).
    But if you’re not (and your boss neither…), you have to ask him politely to use “vous”. Or quit your job before it worsens. Because it will.

    When you’re not a child anymore : never use “vous” with somebody who says “tu”.
    So… in the first minutes of a conversation, it’s like a game : talking and avoiding to say “tu” or “vous” until the other one fails to use “tu” or “vous”. Then apply the same.

    Or choose to kill the “vous”… 😉

    1. You’re right – there is a lot more to it. We need an etiquette expert on the show who can help us all to understand it. Know anyone who can help? Thanks for your comment 🙂

  2. Princesse Hermine de Clermont-Tonnerre ? Stephane Bern ? joke… but why not ?… otherwise, i have no idea !

  3. I was good friends with my doctor. It was tu on a personal level, but in the office for a consultation it was vous. Sadly, she retired, so we’re all tu all the time.

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