Mild Manners- Charente Style

Simple, mild, manners really are one of life's little pleasures.

Before we moved to the Charente, we were warned by several acquaintances that the French have a knack for being rude, arrogant and not too well endowed in the manners department. We have yet to come across anyone who has fulfilled that stereotype and today I was reminded of how wrong these prejudices are.

Coming out of a DIY shop in Barbezieux, an old french gentleman (complete with beret and stripy jumper I'm delighted to add!) took the time to shake our hands and greet us with a "bonjour monsieur et dame" before carrying on with his shopping.

It struck us that wherever we have travelled in the Charente, people do actually take the time to say hello to each other. In bars, at the doctor's, in restaurants, we are always greeted with a smile and a "bonjour" or "bon soir", depending on the time of day.

My brother's friends (all of whom are teenage boys) make the effort to say hello to all of the female members of the family with the traditional kisses on the cheek and the menfolk with a hand shake. I can't imagine any of his English friends doing that. We were lucky to get them to look at us.

I realised that good manners are an excellent way of blagging your way into a new culture, and let's face it, they're easy to master in any language...