Monday, 8 February 2010


I take my turn manning the till in the charity shop where I work.  Standing behind the counter gives plenty of time for reflection and for observing.  I've noticed the different ways people come into the shop.  Some will say a cheery "hello" or "good morning", others will smile and look away, while some never glance in my direction at all.  The difference of approach interests me.

Contrast that with France where a customer would almost without fail greet the shop assistant, and very likely all the other customers in the shop too.  A murmured "Bonjour messieurs-dames" as they come in the door is normally all it amounts to, especially if there are several people around.  Even in a restaurant, customers will greet the assembled company, but probably not in Paris.

I think it could be a matter of public versus private space.  If you're walking down a high street, you don't think to greet everyone unless they happen to be someone you know.  If you're walking your dog in a woods, though, and come across another person, I can't imagine you wouldn't greet them.  But then there is the intermediate zone.  Walking along the sea front yesterday, some greeted, some didn't.

I find the whole thing intriguing, part cultural, part psychological.   Who greets, where and and when?

Oh, and PS, in case it isn't  immediately obvious, I'm talking from the UK.  England, south-east corner, to be precise.


  1. I wonder if it is a difference in culture. I am usually pretty friendly when I enter a shop. I hope my smile brings me good service.

  2. I see.

    I will greet my fellow restaurant patrons next time I am at McDonald's. I will do it in French, too. I will report back.

  3. Don't talk to strangers, my mama said.

    How was I ever supposed to get married? I doubt if she ever thought of that.

  4. The South East corner is full of cold people. The further north you go the better they get. I moved from London, where it is not wise to greet strangers, to a country town where folks do occasionally greet passers-by.

    I always attempt to greet pretty ladies, but some appear quite rude I find.....

  5. I guess it is different everywhere. I worked retail for years and it was all very interesting to just observe the different customers from different parts of the world.

    For me, when walking down the street I always greet people if our eyes meet. It's just being friendly.


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