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the graceful goodbye

February 20, 2008

Ars%20-%20pretty%20house.jpgEarly Saturday evening and I am at a little gathering of French friends on the Ile de Ré. We have been chatting for several hours, when Camille the hostess, says ‘alors, you will stay for dinner?’ This, I realise, is a subtle code as everyone suddenly gets up from the table, protesting that they must leave (since we were invited for aperitifs, not dinner.) And so begins a scene that I have witnessed many times at French gatherings or dinner in friends' houses: the art of the long, graceful goodbye.

One of the unwritten rules of French etiquette, it seems to me, is that you must never announce your intention to leave and then actually follow through (at least not immediately). Instead, guests must strive to create the impression that they are tearing themselves away only under duress.

A typical exit procedure might go like this: first you announce your intention to leave, and ten minutes later you might actually push your chair back and stand up from the table. You remain here for a minimum of five minutes, preferably ten, still engaged in animated conversation, before slowly edging out of the room and advancing towards the door as reluctantly as possible. Throughout this process, you must maintain a lively discourse with your hosts. Then comes the cheek kissing, followed by some more conversation on the doorstep. Only then, do you make your getaway. Having watched my French friends do it many times, I have realised that there is a real art to this - the subtle dance of the long, graceful good-bye.

comments (4)

1. Posted by Miss Choo on February 20, 2008 9:55 PM

So wobbling out on your Manolos after one two many coups de champagne, wouldn't count? Lol, Miss Choo

2. Posted by Chris on February 21, 2008 9:46 AM

How funny! 5 years living with a Frenchman and it took your blog to make sense of this. I always thought he was just 'having such a good time'. Now I know why I got strange looks when I announced my intention to leave and got to the door the next minute... Thanks for that tip!

3. Posted by Dave B on February 21, 2008 8:18 PM

Everyone jumping up to leave doesn't reflect too well on Camile's cooking skills

4. Posted by Malika on February 21, 2008 9:15 PM

It's possible that they ARE just having fun and reluctant to leave

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