Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Say bonjour like you mean it: learn to speak French like a native


If you’re one of the many who think of the French as, let’s say, direct, a new book is on a mission to explain the nation’s frankness once and for all. According to authors Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoît Nadeau in their new book The Bonjour Effect, the rude stereotype comes from the fact that foreigners miss the most basic of French codes. “When you know the real meanings behind their words and gestures, waiters become friendly, store clerks helpful and the French, on the whole, approachable and good humoured.”

Here, they share their golden rules of French conversation for next time you cross the Channel:

The Bonjour Effect

The Bonjour Effect

  • Say bonjour like you mean it and say it a lot. If it feels like you’re saying it too much, that’s just enough.
  • French conversation is not about connecting to others, or even showing an interest in them. The objective is to show you are interesting.
  • Be provocative. It’s better to say something outrageous than agree politely.
  • The French correct others all the time. It’s normal behaviour.
  • Never talk about money, ask for someone’s name or what that person does for a living.
  • Don’t make jokes about yourself. In France, self-deprecating humour makes you sound stupid.

The Bonjour Effect by Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoît Nadeau (£16.99, Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd), is out on 28 July


related articles


“There’s a reason why Parisians wear black – it’s comforting”