vendredi, juillet 27, 2007

Vous or Tu?

In France, there are two ways in addressing peope. 'Vous' is the formal way to address someone whom you do not know or to an elder whom you respect. We 'vouvoyer' the waiter, a stranger, our neighbour, our teacher and often our boss. 'Tu' is the familiar way to address someone whom we know well and is close to us. We 'tutoyer' our friends, little kids and our parents (unless you are an aristocrat, you might have to 'vouvoyer' your parents).

In the beginning, I had a lot of trouble trying to figure out who to 'vouvoyer' and who to 'tutoyer'. It was not a difference of just two words. Different set of grammars and rules applied with regards to 'Vous' or 'Tu'. Take the example of just a simple "How are you?". "Comment allez vous?" when we "vouvoyer" and "Comment vas-tu?" when we "tutoyer". See, it is two different phrases. Out of three words, two are different.

Today, during my second piano lesson, my teacher asked if we can 'tutoyer'. I was relieved as I am more familiar with the 'tu' grammar. Also it brings our teacher-student relationship to a more intimate level.

I hate this uncertanity of how to address a person. It is like a game and it is so french. Since I am not a french, I am in the least position to suggest to someone to 'vouvoyer' or 'tutoyer'. So, I usually wait until the person suggest us to 'tutoie' each other. And I have to remember whom I 'vouvoyer' and 'tutoyer'.

In my previous company, everyone 'tutoyer'. In my present company, I tutoie everyone including the directors. Then just yesterday, I overheard two colleagues 'vouvoyer' with one of the directors. I felt uneasy. I have no idea if I should switch back to 'vouvouyer' him. It is so awkward. What a stupid system! The french language is difficult enough without this. Can't the french make life easier?

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