Pardon: it’s the french way…

27 Jul

There is a huge difference between visiting and living in a country.  While you may pick up on some of the local culture during a 1 or 2 week vacation, it can take longer to discover some of the true cultural anomalies.  My favourite so far is the use of “pardon” (“sorry” in English).

Canada is an apologetic country.  I doubt there is any place in the world where you would hear the words sorry uttered more frequently. We apologize for absolutely everything, often even for things out of our control like the weather.  Anyways, the reason I bring up “Pardon” is the polar difference in how it gets used in France compared to in Canada.

As an example, I use public transport.  In Canada, if you were trying to negotiate your way off a crowded bus or subway, you would start with a quiet and polite “excuse me”, then generally people would give way, and you would pass by.  After passing you would of course apologize for the incredible inconvenience you just caused them (ie. sorry).  This all seems normal enough, possibly a bit more polite than necessary, but it’s how we Canadians do things.

Now, hop on over to France, and here we have an altogether different method of crowd navigation.  As you near your destination and discover you need to get through the crowd to exit the metro/bus/tram, you basically push your way through, elbows out, and try to hit as many people as possible, even if there is a way around them.  Only once you are through the crowd do you say “Pardon”, but of course you don’t really mean it, and often they don’t even make eye contact when the say it.

So it appears that the French go under the idea that it’s better to ask forgiveness than for permission, which after spending a month and a half riding the metro, is likely the best way to go about it, because if I had asked politely for people to move out of my way today when getting off the train, chances are I’d still be stuck in the carriage hoping to get off before they shut down for the night…


One Response to “Pardon: it’s the french way…”


  1. 10 things we WON’T miss about Paris « 99 Days in Paris - November 30, 2010

    […] Pardon – In Paris, the word Pardon seems to absolve you of any and all wrong doings you are about to […]

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