Cheek-Kissing in France

A common French greeting

It’s a measure of the drastic changes in English attitudes towards kissing in general and cheek-kissing in particular that what is now more and more considered as an acceptable form of greeting would have raised eyebrows – even shocked (especially between males) – three or four decades ago when it was mainly confined to theatrical types whose off-stage lives were marked by a general tendency to ostentatious affectation. On the French side of the Channel, however, la bise, cheek-kissing, has long since been a common form of greeting.
   Apart from special occasions such as the New Year when, traditionally, at the stroke of midnight, even those who are little more than strangers will let their hair down enough to cheek-kiss one another, faire la bise, cheek-kissing, is a friendlier, more informal way for men and women to greet each other than shaking hands (hardly surprising with an act which forces you into such close proximity with others that you can smell their make-up, after-shave and sometimes even their breath) and, therefore, usually indulged in by those whose degree of familiarity permits this. Unlike men who shake hands when they encounter members of the same sex, women prefer cheek-kising other women (handshaking between women is formal and only resorted to when being introduced on official occasions). Cheek-kissing is also common between men and women who are on friendly terms, or simply because they’re close working colleagues or members of the same sporting club or association. When we walk into the clubhouse of our local golf club, for example, we systematically cheek-kiss all the women we know (while shaking hands with the men). And we’ve even known a woman stranger accompanying a friend to offer us her cheek (rather than more formally holding out her hand) on being introduced. In France, however, there can be a considerable gap between private and public behaviour – so you mustn’t be surprised if the woman who readily offers you her cheek at the golf club simply wishes you ‘bonjour’ in the High Street. And though in the past male cheek-kissing took place only between close male relatives, i.e. brothers, fathers and sons (and perhaps very close male friends), today there is a growing trend among young French people (and even older ones) to use la bise on a daily basis when greeting others of a similar age.
   As far as the cheek-kissing technique itself is concerned, the first question which springs to mind is which chop do you begin with? Well, basically, that’s for participants to decide. Personally, without really knowing why (perhaps it’s because we’re right-handed), we usually go for the left one first, and when she realizes this, the lady usually co-operates by holding it out. But, as with shaking hands, you can leave it to her to take the initiative. And what do you do with your mits? While pulling the lady towards you in an intimate hug would be going too far (the French don’t really go in for hugging), placing your hand half way down her arm (or even on her shoulder) would be a more natural accompaniment, and far more acceptable than keeping them both rigidly stuck down your sides. And how many times do you do it? Well, this is, in fact, a regional thing. Where we live, thank goodness, we’ve never been witness to more than one on each. But, depending on where you are, it can be once on one, once on the other, and then back to the first for a second helping. And in some regions it’s a ritualistic two on each.
   What’s more, the word ‘kiss’ is more often a misnomer. Rather than planting your lips on the cheeks of the other, the technique usually consists in briefly rubbing your chops together, and at the same time making a kissing movement with your lips. The result is that most of the lip contact is with the surrounding air – though we do have a copain, a pal, who believes in firmly planting his lips on the cheeks of women he feels real affection for. Wearers of spectacles or sunglasses should be careful as their frames have been known to inflict nasty pokes in the eye. And, similarly, if you’re sporting a cap with a long nib, you’ve got far more room for manoeuvre if you take it off.
   Anglo Saxons must also be aware that in France cheek-kissing is a manifestation of friendly affection, and has no sexual connotations. On the contrary, kissing on the lips is indulged in by those sharing an intimate physical relationship (i.e. husband and wife or homosexual partners), and never by male and female members of the same family (i.e. brother and sister, or mother and son), as is sometimes the case in Britain.
   That romantic gesture of ‘old school’ French gallantry, la baise-main, which consists in the male bringing his lips into light, respectful contact with the back of a lady’s outstretched hand is now less common in higher social and diplomatic circles – though a former Président de la République (a reputed woman chaser) systematically used it as a way of promoting the legendary French touch when welcoming foreign lady heads of state. Though the hand-kiss is, apparently, still quite common in Central and Eastern Europe, the French – in their everyday life, at least – look upon it with affectionate amusement. And on the rare occasions when it is used it is bestowed on the older, usually married woman.
   In this respect, we remember one particular occurrence some years ago when we went on a coach trip organized by an association we were members of. Having set off well before dawn one Sunday morning, we stopped for breakfast coffee and croissants at a motorway café. Our driver parked his coach alongside a Polish truck. Now in France it’s forbidden for heavy trucks to circulate on Sundays, and we couldn’t help noticing that one of the two drivers, a young man (he must have been in his middle twenties), had – even at this early hour – found no better way of whiling away what was going to be a long, inactive day than by ingurgitating the contents of a bottle of vodka. On seeing us step out of the coach, he leapt down from his cabin (still clutching his bottle), and proceeded to bestow on each lady a mockingly respectful hand-kiss the moment she’d placed a foot on the ground. Not only did these middle-aged ladies find the gesture hilarious but, we suspect, were secretly flattered by his attention – so much so that they readily consented to a group photo being taken with our grinning young trucker in the middle.

Dreaming of moving to France ? Thinking of spending a holiday there ? Or would you simply like to know more about the French way of life ? In this free Ebook you’ll find 369 tips to help you get your bearings in a country where it’s easy to feel all at sea. They’re based on the author’s own observations, experiences (and mistakes) during 45 years of mainly peaceful cohabitation with the French. Available in Kindle, Epub and PDF format.
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A Tale of Snails

It might be imagined that the prospect of consuming a creature even more viscously repugnant than the frog might have inspired similar feelings of horrific revulsion in the English-colonized part of our Frenglish stomach. Is it because it has long been used to accommodating its sea-bound cousins? Or is it simply due to the fact that this gastropod is called upon to suffer inertly? Whatever the explanation may be, we can tolerate, even relish a dozen escargots, without the Englishman in us manifesting even the semblance of a qualm. We must, however, admit that his appreciation of the dish is perhaps due more to the assertive flavour procured by the butter, parsley and garlic sauce the snails are usually cooked in; for the flesh itself is characterized by a limpish, rubber-like texture, and a taste which bears more comparison with chewing gum that has been conscientiously masticated for at least an hour.
Though horrified by the method used to cut the frog down to frying-pan proportions, our Englishman closes his eye to the even more hideous fate reserved for the snail: for, in order to eliminate any toxic vegetation it may have swallowed, our gastropod is first subjected to a three or four-week fast; and the little life then remaining is extinguished by plunging the poor creature into a pan of boiling water. Moreover, if quantities only are to be gone by, the French would be nicknamed ‘Snailies’ rather than ‘Froggies’. For two in every three of the snails swallowed on our planet (a total of around 700 million per year) find their way into a Gallic stomach. Usually the larger-sized Escargot de Bourgogne (helix pomatia) is favoured, and though, understandably, native numbers are steadily declining, snail-gathering (early wet summer mornings produce the best results) is still legally permitted for private consumption, and even sale.
Disappointingly, as with frogs’ legs, most of the snails consumed today are of foreign importation, and usually come in deep-frozen, or canned form. Ready-prepared snails, ensconced in their shells, and topped with a butter, garlic and parsley sauce, are widely available in French supermarket freezers, and need only be popped into a hot oven, or simply micro-waved. Sauce-bound snails can also be found nestling in flaky-pastry, vol-au-vent type cases. Though these are usually eaten as a starter, they may be served up as an amuse-gueule – a tasty ‘gob-amuser’ to be enjoyed with a pre-meal drink. As is the case with frogs’ legs, the self-respecting French snail-eater reckons in nothing less than dozens, and the delicacy is, therefore, usually eaten from the shell on a dedicated plate with twelve hollows. Finger-assisted consumption being messy, a pair of snail tongs is provided for holding (and not crushing) the shells, along with a specific slim-line extraction fork (at home a pin could be used). It goes without saying that, not only is systematic dunking of the accompanying sauce allowed, but is generally considered to be an indispensable way of enjoying the whole.

Dreaming of moving to France ? Thinking of spending a holiday there ? Or would you simply like to know more about the French way of life ? In this free Ebook you’ll find 369 tips to help you get your bearings in a country where it’s easy to feel all at sea. They’re based on the author’s own observations, experiences (and mistakes) during 45 years of mainly peaceful cohabitation with the French. Available in Kindle, Epub and PDF format.

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The Frogs And Frogs

The Frenchie in us has never quite been able to comprehend why the thought of eating the legs of such inoffensive little creatures as frogs should inspire such unmitigated horror in the majority of you English; nor, given the fact that the legs of this same amphibian are enjoyed by other nations of our planet, why only Gallics are considered so intimately associated with it that the name should have come to be so cruelly synonymous (the French attempt at vengeance with ‘les rosbifs’ is mild by comparison) with them. Our Anglo, on the other hand, has always been at a loss to understand how the rear members of so viscous, unsightly a creature as a frog could have come to be considered such a refined delicacy of French cuisine.
     Though the consumption of frogs’ legs is a well-established, organized and widespread enough tradition to justify it being termed an institution, the French are not daily consumers (in spite of what some English people might think), and eating them is considered a special treat, usually taking place in a restaurant and limited to the early days of Spring. And it is not, in fact, the legs, but their fleshy upper part, les cuisses, the thighs, which are consumed, though it’s not unknown for some to extract additional pleasure by sucking and munching the bones. In the past, frogs were collected in millions – in daytime by means of a red rag (for some inexplicable reason frogs are fatally drawn to red), and at night they were mesmerized by the light of a torch. In view of the rapidly declining numbers, however, it has now been made illegal to harvest them commercially, and frogs may only be taken for personal consumption. So, most frogs’ legs eaten in the Hexagon today were attached to the bodies of foreign-spawned aquatics flown in live.
     It goes without saying, however, that a certain amount of poaching still goes on. An indication of how seriously this is taken was provided by an article which appeared recently in our local newspaper. Two men, a father and his son, it related, had been caught red-handed collecting a total of 417 frogs encaged in 11 lobster-type pots, surreptitiously deposited in a neighbour’s mere. Not only did these considerable numbers suggest that their antics had a commercial outlet (the wholesale price of a kilo is around 30 euros), but the offences took place during the reproduction period at the beginning of March when frogs are especially easy to capture. Apparently, this was not their first attempt, and it was estimated they had poached at least 1,000 batrachians annually over a number of years. Though the accused pleaded that the frogs were solely for personal consumption, the magistrate thought otherwise: for the father was fined 2,000 euros (he didn’t bother to turn up in court), while the son was made to fork out 1,000.
     Restaurant owners usually obtain their provisions at the airport, take the frogs back home, where they are kept alive in special tanks before enduring, on, of course, a far greater scale (as many as 4,000 tons are consumed each year), a fate very similar to the one we have described above. As far as the eating is concerned, it’s difficult to understand what all the fuss is about: the taste is a relatively bland cross between chicken and fish, and one of the native russet species (rana temporaria) is said to have a noticeable hazelnut flavour. Though sophisticated gourmet variations do exist, normal cooking is extremely straightforward, and when fried in butter with a sprinkling of parsley, together with a few crushed cloves of garlic, they go down a treat. Not only does French table etiquette permit the use of fingers when eating, but they are expected to be licked in audible appreciation. Usually frogs’ legs are consumed in dozens and, incredible as it may sound to some, many restaurants now follow the Anglo-Saxon all-you-can-eat fashion by offering, for an all-inclusive price, as many as can be got down.

This blog is based on an article from the author’s latest book, Barry’s Frenglish Folies – ‘A potpourri of humorous, serious, and humorously serious reflections on the French and English seen through the eyes of a split-identity and occasionally demented Frenglishman’.

Barry’s Frenglish Folies is available as a free Ebook download at :

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A Divine Weekend?

What if our puts popped reverentially down with a satisfying plonk?Another of those things the Frenchman in us finds contradictory in you English is why such a pragmatic, no-nonsense nation, proud to call a spade a spade, and so mistrustful of anything vaguely smacking of verbal ostentation – especially when it comes in the form of words of more than two syllables in length – should be given to such hyperbolic extravagance in their choice of descriptive language. For there is certainly no other people on our planet who have incorporated into their everyday speech such effusive adjectives as ‘fantastic’, ‘extraordinary’, ‘marvellous’, ‘incredible’, ‘amazing’, ‘stunning’, to name just a few (frequently reinforced by ‘absolutely’ or ‘utterly’) to qualify what is barely distinguishable from the mundane.
     Why, only the other day we had lunch with a friend in an English pub. The waitress, a pleasant, not unattractive young lady, brought us the menu, came back five minutes later, took down our order, and then departed after gratifying us with the sweetest of smiles along with a mystifying ‘wonderful!’ If, by this, she wished to compliment us on our choice of fare, the Frenglishman we are is yet to comprehend what she could have found so extraordinarily delightful about steak and kidney pie, peas and chips.
     But what annoys us most is the use of the word ‘awesome’. Perhaps it’s because of the increasing ascendency it seems to be enjoying over all the others. Only last week an old school friend with whom we’d recently re-established contact after a lapse of many years was describing his two grandchildren, aged 10 and 12. ‘They’re little angels,’ he wrote. ‘When you next come to England you must visit us and see for yourself. They’re really awesome.’
     It’s not that we wouldn’t like to believe him. The problem is that our three years as a schoolmaster in England soon taught us that if you don’t keep on top of these awesome little angels they can make your life worse than hell. Mind you, at first we didn’t exclude the possibility that the meaning of the word had changed since our dim and distant youth, and that it was now more or less synonymous with ‘nice’, or at most ‘excellent’. So we got out our Shorter Oxford just to make sure. But there it was in black and white: ‘Inspiring wonder, dread, or amazement’. And then, to cap it all, last Friday evening we received an email from somebody (he was American, so it must be the same over there) offering his services to help us market this book.
    ‘Hi, I was checking out your Call of France website,’ he began. ‘It’s really awesome, but you could have a better Google ranking.’
     Now don’t get us wrong. In all modesty, we think our website isn’t at all bad. In fact, between you and me, we’re quite proud of it. But we couldn’t help thinking that a less extravagant-sounding word such as ‘nice’ or ‘attractive’ would have been nearer the mark. Mind you, he was trying to sell us something, so we did grant him some leeway. But it was the ending, ‘Have an awesome weekend’ that really got our Frenglish goat.
     It wasn’t as if we didn’t appreciate his politeness in wishing us something pleasant on parting. The French do it all the time. And it’s not that our weekends aren’t usually agreeable affairs. I mean, this Sunday – providing the weather’s reasonably nice – we’ll probably go out for a run in the car. And on Saturday, we’ve arranged to play a round of golf. But what could be awesome about this? What on earth could make it such a wondrous weekend in the true sense of the word? And then, all of a sudden, it struck us! Couldn’t anything so sublime only come from on High?
     Now, to be honest, we must confess that in our mature years we’ve become increasingly sceptical about the presence of a Supreme Being. Perhaps the seeds were sown in our English part’s formative years when both morning and afternoon dominical presence at church was mercilessly imposed. Mind you, we might possibly repent when we feel that last breath coming. But, right now, we’re in desperate need of some material proof of His existence. And we’d certainly be prepared to reassess our position if He decided to deposit a brand new Aston Martin DB11 Coupé in our garage (we don’t mind the colour as long as it’s not pink). Wouldn’t that be truly awesome?
     And, as for our golf, what if our usual drives, instead of systematically deviating to the right or left not much farther than we can spit, suddenly found themselves hurtling as straight as a dye for a distance worthy of Tiger Woods at his best? What if our twenty yard pitches, instead of failing miserably to attain the green, fell consistently within six inches of the flag? And what if our puts, instead of running a couple of times round the inner lip of the hole, and then defiantly popping out, were made to drop reverentially down with a satisfying plonk? Now, that would be more than awesome. That would be simply divine.

This blog is based on an article from the author’s latest book, Barry’s Frenglish Folies – ‘A potpourri of humorous, serious, and humorously serious reflections on the French and English seen through the eyes of a split-identity and occasionally demented Frenglishman’.

Barry’s Frenglish Folies is available as a free Kindle download at :

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French Arrogance: Myth or Reality?

The Gallic part of us is inclined to think that the more educated, open-minded and travelled Brit tends towards a positive perception of the French. This is far from being the case with the popular classes (we can’t speak for other Anglo-Saxon nations) whose Francophobic tendencies are often encouraged by a tabloid press which, for nationalistic and commercial reasons (it enjoys a readership of tens of millions), seems to delight in serving up liberal portions of what their readers want to hear. And the subject of French arrogance seems to be a subject they enjoy the most.

  A Selection of British Tabloids

Some years ago during a national truckers’ strike in France, a number of strike-busting English drivers who happened to find themselves on French roads at the time, were held captive by their French equivalents.

This unleashed so much fury on the part of one tabloid that it hit on the idea of conducting a ‘Frog-Bashing’ campaign. This consisted in inviting readers to send in all the anti-French jokes they knew, and awarding a prize for the one considered to be the most hilarious. The degree of response defied all imagination, producing so many rib-ticklers that the newspaper didn’t have enough space to publish them all. It goes without saying that a good number of these focused on French arrogance, and for several days we were treated to such side-splitting hilarities as: ‘How do you make money out of a Frog? By buying him at the price he’s worth, and selling him at the price he thinks he’s worth!’
One of the main explanations for what, to our mind, has no more sense to it than labelling the English a supercilious lot, merely because they don’t shake one another by the hand at least twenty times a day, can be found in the misunderstandings which can arise when people view one another through the deforming lense of their own diverging culture.
Personally, during the 45 years or so we’ve been living in France we’ve always operated on the principle that if you’re pleasantly polite with others in the vast majority of cases they’ll be pleasantly polite back. For us, at least, this has always worked with the different nationalities we’ve crossed the path of, including the French. Perhaps we’ve been lucky but, apart, perhaps, from the odd Parisian waiter (never address them as ‘garçon’), we’ve yet to come across the French arrogance and rudeness some Anglophones seem to find so rampant. The only exception was some years ago when we were having a drink in a café with a Scottish friend. We were sitting at the bar and our conversation was in English. Suddenly, an elderly man standing nearby announced loudly to one and all, ‘Ca sent la merde ici!’ (There’s a smell of shit round here !) and proceeded to storm out. In his favour, we think he’d had too many, and had perhaps mistaken English for German (perhaps he’d suffered during the German occupation of World War 2). So great was the indignation of the café owner (and several people standing around) that he offered us a drink on the house!

This blog is based on an article from the author’s latest book, Barry’s Frenglish Folies – ‘A potpourri of humorous, serious, and humorously serious reflections on the French and English seen through the eyes of a split-identity and occasionally demented Frenglishman’.

Barry’s Frenglish Folies is available as a free Kindle download at :

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Have a Nice …

                   ‘Have a nice game of Scrabble!’

Given the doubtful nature of English cooking, the Frenchman in us can certainly understand why you Brits can’t be gulled into taking seriously someone who expresses the wish that you enjoy your meal. He would, nevertheless, have thought that a conception of politeness which encourages you to display, from the very moment you meet, a maximum of congeniality towards your fellow man – even when he’s a total stranger – would, at least, require you to have the decency, on parting, to express the hope that you have a nice day. Toutefois, when you think about it, what could be less astonishing that a people who for centuries were preached to night and day that enjoyment of any kind was a cardinal sin should rarely wish one another a nice anything?
     Nevertheless, anyone wanting to embrace French lifestyle and culture to the full must be aware right from the start that the Gallics are incapable of parting from those they’ve been chatting to (even when not much more than half a dozen words have been exchanged) without systematically wishing one another a nice something or other. Such a well-established and accepted part of French polite etiquette is this that not expressing the hope that you have a nice walk, a nice game of golf or a nice journey would be perceived, at best, as a glaring omission and, at worst, the height of discourtesy.
     The most frequently-encountered of these turns of phrase are focused on parts of the day or week – ‘bonne journée’, ‘bon après-midi’, ‘bonne soirée’, ‘bonne nuit’, ‘bon weekend’, counting among the most common. Others (the untranslatability of which somewhere seems to endorse the fact that they’re alien to Anglophone culture) are more specific, and split morning, afternoon and evening into beginnings and ends: ‘bonne fin d’après-midi’ (literally ‘have a nice end to your afternoon’), ‘bon début de soirée’ (‘have a nice beginning to your evening’). And ‘bon réveil’ (‘have a nice wake-up’) is a favourite with early-morning newsreaders. What’s more, the custom is flexible enough to embrace any activity you’re already, or are soon to be engaged in and, if this is of a challenging or irksome nature, a ‘bon courage’ is usually forthcoming. In addition, you can be wished a vague, all-embracing ‘bonne continuation’ (‘continue having a nice whatever you’re doing now’) – even when you’re doing nothing at all! So the number of variants is without limitation (we’ve even heard ‘bonne partie de Scrabble’ (‘have a nice game of Scrabble’).

This blog is based on an article from the author’s latest book, Barry’s Frenglish Folies – ‘A potpourri of humorous, serious, and humorously serious reflections on the French and English seen through the eyes of a split-identity and occasionally demented Frenglishman’.

Barry’s Frenglish Folies is available as a free Kindle download at :

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How Do You Become Unfriendlily Polite?

How do you become unfriendlily polite with a stranger  who insists on addressing you in the most familiar terms?

                         ‘But Barry, this is the chance of a lifetime!’

All right. So, in true Anglo-Saxon spirit, you’ve started out on friendlily polite terms with someone you barely know. The problem is what do you do when things don’t quite work out as friendlily as you’d have liked? How do you become unfriendlily polite? Only the other day, for example, someone cold-called us (he was American judging by his accent) … from New Delhi, of all places! We don’t really know how he’d got hold of our name, and we later cursed ourself for not thinking to enquire. After we’d informed him he was correct in his assumption that he’d got Barry Whittingham on the end of his line, without so much as a by your leave he proceeded to drop the family name. And then, in between all the Barrys, we began to realize that he was asking us to believe he was some kind of stockbroker, and that the instant friendship his repetitive use of our first name seemed to imply obliged him to reveal that, if we invested a rather daunting amount in the shares of a certain company, some corporate miracle would take place within the next two months causing their value to increase by at least 50%.

     Though we did manage to resist becoming unfriendlily polite for the next few minutes or so, it was when he said, ‘But you’ve got to act now, Barry!’ that it all started to crumble. But, strangely enough, what irritated us most was not so much the unlikely nature of what he was trying to get us to swallow as his dogged use of our Christian name. And when he added, ‘Barry, grab a pen and jot the name of this company down,’ our annoyance got the better of us, and we replied (it must have been the Frenchman in us) rather shirtily that we weren’t going to grab anything at all … for the moment, at least.

     ‘But, Barry,’ he insisted, ‘this is the opportunity of a lifetime. Barry, this is something you just can’t afford to miss out on!’

     At this point even our Englishman began to get downright hostile, and we proceeded to inform him that if he didn’t want our conversation to become unfriendlily polite he would have to take ‘no’ for an answer. And it only took another, ‘But Barry…,’ for us to lose most of our self-control, and the little that remained of the polite gentleman our English alter usually tries to be only just managed a peremptory ‘goodbye,’ before we slammed the phone down.

     On reflection, we would much rather have preferred being addressed by the occasional Mr Whittingham, rather than an overdose of Barry – or even, for that matter, by nothing at all. And between you and us, we’ve got to admit that a nice, deferential ‘sir’ from time to time wouldn’t have gone amiss. We must be a snob at heart.


                                                    *   *   *


This blog is based on an article from the author’s latest book, Barry’s Frenglish Folies – ‘A potpourri of humorous, serious, and humorously serious reflections on the French and English seen through the eyes of a split-identity and occasionally demented Frenglishman’.


Barry’s Frenglish Folies is available as a free Kindle download at :


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Friendly Politeness

‘Hello young man!’

One of those many things the Frenchie in us has difficulty in understanding about you Anglo-Saxons is the fact that, in contrast to the more formal French approach where the use of Monsieur, Madame or Mademoiselle to address strangers is de rigueur, your notion of friendly politeness requires you to greet people you’ve never met in your life before in the most familiar of terms. During our holidays in England last year, for example, we walked into a small  shop, only to be welcomed by an assistant, young enough to be our grand-daughter, and whom we’d never clapped eyes on in our life before, with a cheery, ‘Hello, young man!’ Her greeting smacked so much of inappropriate familiarity that both our French and Englishman joined together in firmly pointing out that, since she would never have addressed a genuine young man in this way, what really prompted her greeting was, in fact, the very opposite to what she was attempting to imply – namely, that we were no longer a young man. So how is it possible for the uninformed Frenchman not to fall into total confusion in a country where codes of friendly politeness require you to call a man ‘a young man’ when he’s not a young man, but rarely call a man ‘a young man’ when he is a young man, and where it’s quite possible to address both an old man and a young boy as ‘young man’, and both a young man and an old man as ‘old boy?’ Isn’t it far more logical to show friendly politeness towards people you know, and just polite politeness with those you don’t?

     Mind you, we probably got off lightly. For such is the importance you Anglo-Saxons attach to instant friendship that when you go into a shop you can be addressed by someone you’ve not had the pleasure of meeting before with a disconcerting variety of familiar appellations which can only lead the foreign observer to surmise that you’re on the most intimate of terms. What’s more, this obsession with on-the-spot closeness obliges us to invite people we’ve never in our life mucked the pigs out with to address us by our Christian name, or even its diminutive, and to take the liberty of using theirs. Last Saturday evening, for instance, we were invited to a dinner party given by a couple of English friends.


‘Hello! My name’s John.’

    ‘I don’t think you know Jennifer and John,’ said our hostess by way of introduction to a couple we’d never met before.

     ‘Oh, just call me Jennie,’ replied the lady, her cheeks creasing into the sweetest of smiles.

     This addiction to instantaneous friendship can, however, show its limits. This was illustrated one day last summer when we took ourself along to an agricultural show with an English friend and his wife. As we were walking past one stand a young woman rushed up to our friend’s wife.

     ‘How wonderful it is to see you again!’ she effused, seizing her in a smothering embrace. A brief conversation followed between them after which we continued on our way.

     ‘Yes, I met her at a dinner party a couple of weeks ago,’ my friend’s wife explained, ‘but I can’t for the life of me remember her name!’


                             *   *   *


This blog is based on an article from the author’s latest book, Barry’s Frenglish Folies – ‘a potpourri of humorous, serious, and humorously serious reflections on the French and English seen through the eyes of a split-identity and occasionally demented Frenglishman’.

Barry’s Frenglish Folies is available as a free Kindle download at :


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Selling your Second-Hand Car in France

Anglophone expats might find the following information and tips useful when it comes to selling their car in France.

1. Selling Privately or to a Dealer?

First of all you must decide whether to sell your car privately or to a garage or second-hand car dealer. If selling privately you’ll have to calculate the price you’d like to sell it at. This can be done by using the Internet site of specialized car dealers or by consulting the tables and formulas supplied by car magazines. Prices are based on the average sales price for your make of car along with its age, number of kilometres, options and sometimes the region you live in. Don’t be too greedy. What you should be aiming at is a price which suits both you and the buyer. It might, however, be a good idea to increase your selling price by, say, 2% to give yourself room for manoeuvre when it comes to the inevitable haggling. Be aware that your potential buyer will certainly have done his sums, too.

2. Selling to a Professional.

If you decide to sell to a professional the selling price will be some 10% lower as it takes into account his working expenses and margins. You can calculate the official value by consulting the publication L’Argus which is on sale at newsagent’s and in supermarkets.

3. Selling Privately.

If you sell privately you’ll certainly have to advertise your vehicle. You can do this regionally or nationally through specialized advertising newspapers, magazines and internet companies. Usually they provide special forms you can use to describe your vehicle (colour, extras, kilometrage, age and, of course, the selling price). You’ll also have to provide a suitable photo. Make sure it’s a flattering one. It might sound elementary but when selling your car privately it’s important to carry out all necessary repairs on both mechanics and bodywork before putting your vehicle up for sale. It’s also important to give a good impression – so give it a thorough wash and clean inside and out. Use polish on the bodywork and a plastic and/or leather renovator inside. Make sure all the floormats have been cleaned. Your aim is to make it look as near to new as possible. It could make all that difference. In addition, normally a buyer will want to see the service manual along with details of all scheduled services and repair bills.

4. Official Identification

There are plenty of rogues about, so ask a potential buyer to supply official identification – ideally his identity card complete with photo.

6. The ‘certificat de cession’.

As the seller you’ll need to fill in a certificat de cession. This informs the authorities of the sale of the vehicle along with the name and address of the new owner. It’s in three parts: one is for you, one for the buyer and one must be sent to your local préfecture within two weeks of concluding the transaction. This form can be obtained from your préfecture or sous-préfecture or downloaded from

7. The ‘certificat de non-gage’.

You must also let the buyer have a certificat de non-gage. This is an official document proving that the vehicle hasn’t been stolen and that you’re its 100% owner (i.e. you’re not still paying credit instalments on it). This is also free and can be obtained from the same sources as the certificat de cession. Though not mandatory it might also be a good idea to establish a contrat de vente giving details of the vehicle and the sales transaction (registration number, make, date first registered, kilometrage, sales price) which can then be signed by both parties. Contract models can be found on Internet.

8. The ‘procès-verbal de contrôle technique’.

If your car is more than four years old and you’re selling privately you must supply the buyer with a procès-verbal de contrôle technique (see ‘The French MOT – le contrôle technique). This must be less than six months old (or less than two months if the MOT revealed defects which entailed a contre-visite).

9. The ‘certificat d’immatriculation’ or ‘carte grise’. 

Give the buyer the car’s certificat d’immatriculation, its registration certificate. If your vehicle is relatively old it will be the carte grise (it’s a bit confusing as the new certificat d’immatriculation is still frequently referred to as the carte grise). If it’s the carte grise draw two parallel lines across it and write legibly between the lines ‘Vendu le …’ or ‘Cédé le …’ followed by the date and time it was sold. It’s important to indicate the time in case the new owner commits a driving offense after taking possession. Sign below and cut off the top right-hand corner along the dotted lines. If it’s a certificat d’immatriculation write on the top part ‘Vendu le …’ or ‘Cédé le …’ the date and time it was sold, followed by your signature. Then fill in the detachable coupon with the name and address of the buyer along with the date and your signature in the box.  Give the complete certificate to the buyer. Do the same if you’re selling to a professional but don’t fill in the detachable coupon. This enables the buyer to drive his new acquisition for a maximum of one month while waiting for a new certificat d’immatriculation to be issued in his name. If selling your car to a dealer simply give him the certificat d’immatriculation. Usually he will supply all the documents and look after the formalities. Make sure he respects the official procedure. Mention the sale on your carte grise or certificat d’immatriculation. It might be a good idea if you personally send the certificat de cession to the préfecture as proof that the vehicle has been sold.

10. Test Drive

For obvious reasons a potential buyer will want a test drive. Give him the keys only when you’re both inside the car. When it’s over get him to switch off the ignition and hand you the keys before you get out. I know this sounds needless but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Some so-called testers have been known to drive off.

11. Payment

When it comes to settlement tell him you want to be paid by banker’s cheque. Normally this guarantees payment but forgeries do exist. Don’t hesitate to ask for the name of his bank so you can telephone to make sure they issued the cheque. This is imperative if you accept payment by personal cheque. Consequently, the transaction must be concluded during bank opening hours and not during the weekend when it will be closed. Please note that many French banks are open on Saturday mornings only. 

14. Be on the Safe Side

Just to be on the safe side make sure you’re actually holding the cheque before handing over the keys and the crossed, dated and signed carte grise or the detachabe certificat d’immatriculation coupon.

15. Hidden defects

Be aware that as the seller you’re responsible for any hidden defects existing before the transaction. If the buyer proves their existence he can ask you to refund part of the price he paid if he decides to keep the vehicle, or to cancel the sale with a total refund of the price paid. However, providing the buyer agrees, you can include a written let-out clause with regard to the hidden defects guarantee in the sales contract. French judges are usually more clement with the seller when the buyer is a professional as they consider he is better qualified to judge the state of a vehicle than a private buyer.

Call of France

[audio:|titles=Call of France Intro]

‘It was as if that loathsome creature which had left such slimy traces in his past had now crawled into the present’


Disappointing academic results, a disastrous first love and a failed job experience all go to make Michael Morgan deeply disillusioned with himself and others. He decides to train to be a French teacher. But at home the atmosphere is poisoned, school life becomes tedious, misjudged relations with two female colleagues lead to disturbing repercussions … and tragedy strikes. He longs to wipe his life’s slate clean by escaping to a fresh start in France. But is he running away from himself? And then he’s given the chance of sharing in an exciting venture. Should he stay in England or pursue his French dream?

Based on some of the author’s own experiences, Barfield School, the soon-to-be-published, first novel in his trilogy, CALL OF FRANCE, is a psychological drama which explores the thoughts, feelings and motivations of Michael Morgan, a young French teacher whose obsessional dreams of starting a new life in France lead to some regrettable choices. Their unforeseen consequences make him even more determined to escape.

Call of France website:

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