In the past, I have dedicated a post to discussing what "Cuban-time" entails. This cultural analysis was only a warm-up aimed at the task of deciphering the rhythm of French life.
While living in France has its undeniable advantages, it's not all fun and games for any new Expat flung into the throws of this sometimes confusing culture.
|*BADUM-PSSH* (Seriously, though, wine is said to be reserved for lunch and dinner to complement the meal. Drinking wine outside of those hours makes you look like an alcoholic.)|
The general unspoken rules involved in what I call French-time can have some rather elusive features. However, thanks to sheer cultural immersion, I have through my observations learned the slew of nuances involved in French-time.
Throughout this post, I will make use of several acronyms, because that is the French way.
Let's start off with the most obvious of them all: "Bonjour-Time."
1) Bonjour-Time* (BT): The small window between 00.001 and 2 seconds it takes for you to establish the vital greeting with a person from whom a particular service** is or may be expected (bus drivers, store clerks, cashiers, SNCF workers), acquaintances or friends**.
Failure to act within this brief time frame may result with the interacting French person to exhibit a silent, glacial glare or to state an ironic reprimand of how polite you are.
2) Au Revoir-Time (ART): It must be enacted at all costs, preferably 3 seconds prior to leaving the premises. May be used, at a bare minimum, 00.001 second before exiting through the door.
The punishment for neglecting ART will result with you being shamed from ever showing your face again. For, lo, the French have a rather impressive talent for remembering every single person who has slighted them for not engaging in BT and ART.
3) New Year Greeting-Time (NYGT): the crucial moment in which you wish your friends, family, work colleagues, potential lover, boss and pet goldfish "Bonne année!" the first time you encounter or communicate with them within the new year. This window of greeting is understood to occur during the month of January yet may extend well into February.
The faux pas of failing to enact on this expected duty will result in ostracism, broken friendships and lots of finger pointing at the village idiot (you).
4) Apéro-Time (AT); The thirty to sixty minutes before dinner in which it is acceptable to have an alcoholic beverage and snack foods. Usually better if done in the company of friends and family at the end of DPT. Otherwise, it's just a little sad to be having a conversation about existentialism by yourself.
5) Dinner Party-Time (DPT): Guests are promptly expected to arrive a minimum of fifteen minutes after the designated time. Try to avoid arriving early or on time lest the dinner host happens to not be French. AT will take place shortly upon arrival.
6) Coffee Break-Time (CBT): occurs in two or three intervals throughout the day (10 a.m., after lunch and 4 p.m.). CBT may also finalize a wonderful session started by DPT.
7) SNCF-Time (SNCFT)***: The fifteen to twenty minutes it takes for the electronic boards to display the train's track number.
8) Strike Season (SS): The period between September 1st to July 31st in which French unionists become disgruntled with government/company policies and remind them who's in charge by disrupting or withholding crucial societal functions (transportation, education, distribution of pharmaceutical goods).
|"Pharmacy on strike." I can't make this stuff up.|
9) Off-Strike Season (OSS), a.k.a. Les Vacances: The period between August 1st to August 31st in which no-one bothers to go on strike because the weather is too nice.
*The same standard applies to Bonsoir-Time (not to be confused with BT) should you need to greet the French person within the evening hours.