The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Friday, January 09, 2009

Bonne Annee, et Bonne Sante

Odd French cultural tidbit: It is customary, after the new year, to wish everyone you know a Happy New Year (an additional wish for good health is optional); men shake hands as well, and women bisou.

Not so strange, you say, in the US I wish everyone a Happy New Year on New Year's Day, and when I go back to work a couple of days later?

Well, what's odd is the extent to which the French take this. The wishing-Happy-New-Year time window extends all the way through January, and wishes must be expressed to absolutely everyone you know; last night I had a hearty handshake and exchange of wishes with the little guy from Maintenance who comes in to empty my recycling bin when I'm working late. Protocol also demands that you do this the very first time you see that person in the new calendar year, regardless of the circumstances at the time, whether you are on opposing Metro platforms, across the street, or two urinals away. So at that first departmental meeting of the year, as each new person enters the room, there is a scene something like this.

[unrelated photos added purely for color: Christmas light display in the Grotemarkt, Brussels. Very similar to Lyon's Fete des Lumieres, but on a much smaller scale]

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