La Politesse Française

I should declare myself a Francophile from the outset. I love the food, fashion, literature, mountains, beaches, cafés and the language.

I love the turn-of-phrase. The way something so simple can sound so beautiful. So, last year, when Le Monde Diplomatique asked us to deliver the French version of their publication in addition to the English edition, I was delighted!

Part of the service offered to all our publishing partners, is to manage the customer service queries relating to the electronic publication. This mostly consists of forgotten passwords. On the whole a query comes through by e-mail, it is answered and the customer quietly carries on with accessing their digital subscription. Except in the case of the French subscribers. On a frequent basis after helping them out, they will write back and thank us. And its not just a simple ‘ merci beaucoup’, but a wonderful ‘ merci de votre gentillesse’ { thank you for your kindness} or ‘bien à vous { good wishes to you}.We are often wished a pleasant day or evening and always addressed with such politeness – ‘Bonjour Chère Madame/Cher Monsieur’

An institutional customer mistakenly addressed me as ‘Monsieur’ today – easily done given that my name, Daryl, is more prevalent as a male name and Daryl Hannah, the actress-come- mermaid, seems to be the only other female whose parents chose such an ambiguous moniker.

In my reply I pointed this out, by signing myself off as Madame Daryl Rayner. I promptly received a very polite note back apologising profusely.It did not require an apology at all , but how polite I thought! Good manners are certainly alive in French cyberspace.


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