Bucking against that shopworn stereotype that all French people are rude, writer Amy Alkon invokes a Parisian habit in her book on how to be nicer to people. Ironic, no?
It’s also nice to do as they do in Paris, where passing strangers are likely to greet each other. You’ll walk through the courtyard of a building and cross paths with a woman you for sure will never see again, and she’ll say, “Bonjour, madame,” and you will say it back to her. It’s really nice. It’s this little moment in which you’re connected to somebody. They’ve saluted your existence.
After experiencing this in France, I started greeting people everywhere—saying ho to coffee shop and takeout cashiersinstead of just giving my order, and smiling and saying good morning to passersby. In time, I came to realize that a stranger is just someone you have yet to treat like a neighbor and thast a friendly hello is shorthand for the French phrase, “Ne seriez-vous pas nom voisin?” Or, as Mr. Rogers used to put it, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”
Photo by Gregg Sutter