Saying « bonjour » twice: don’t make this expat mistake

Bonjour,

Tu vas bien ?

In the UK, US, Australia, Canada… when you meet a person for the second time during the day you just say , “hi” or “hello”.
But in France, saying bonjour several times is super rude.

Maybe you didn’t know and you’re thinking « Oh no! What should I do? »…
Should you lower your gaze do they don’t talk to you? Hide in the toilets after 9AM?
Or just NEVER say Bonjour so no chance you’d say it twice?

Let me help.


Click to watch « Say hello during the day »:




Et toi alors ?
Have you ever said « Bonjour » twice and the French person looked at you like you were an alien?
Or did you never notice it?

Tell me in the comments how it went. Share your story so we can discuss in the comment area below the video.

A bientôt,

Géraldine

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Join the conversation!

  • Bonjour – when meeting online (Skype or WebEx, etc) where you may not be able to smile or wave, what is the best way to handle this? We are usually aquatinted with the others in the meeting and don’t meet frequently.

    • Hi Barbara!

      If the online meetings are not in the same day, you can say “Bonjour” again with no problem.

      If you have several meetings in the same day with the same people, you can say “Bonjour” the first time, and then “Rebonjour !” (or “Encore bonjour !”) at the beginning of the other ones.

      Have a great day,
      – Arthur , writer for Comme une Française

  • I have been learning/teaching French for 35 years and I never knew this! No French person has EVER corrected me or looked at me strangely for saying «Bonjour» more than once in a day… but maybe I haven’t? Maybe I have said «Salut!» or «Salut encore une fois!» or “Bonjour encore une fois!» or «Ça va?» or «Bonsoir” (because the next time I saw them that day was after about 5pm) I rather think this could be why. At any rate, I don’t think I had heard ANYONE tell me this until this week when one of my new adult learners who has a house in France mentioned it and I looked it up and stumbled across you online! I am ecstatic to have learned more about this habit as well as the (quite frankly cool) words «Rebonjour!» and “Re!» I am going to sign up to your emails right now! Merci!

  • Bonjour! I am a French major in college in the U.S.
    SO my French professor (who is Polish/French) says “bonjour” to me when I come to his office to ask a question, even though we already saw each other earlier that day in class and said bonjour. One time I said re-bonjour, but that feels weird, and I can’t not say bonjour back. Or if I said bonjour again to him, it isn’t like I forgot we spoke earlier, as it is obvious I know that we spoke before. Is it rude for me to say bonjour again in this situation? Also, a bit off topic- but is it rude if you say “bonjour” and not “bonjour monsieur/madame” if they are someone you vousvoyer like a professor?
    Merci!!

    • Bonjour Samantha,
      In this context, I don’t know. If your teacher wants to say Bonjour each time, I can’t go against that. 🙂
      But it would not happen in France.

      Bonjour is neutral and fits “tu” and “vous”. You are more than welcome to say Bonjour monsieur/madame to your teacher though, they’ll like it.

  • Bonsoir Geraldine,

    Si une personnel se trompe et dit “bonjour” deux fois, qu’est-ce qu’ on doix dire ou faire pour ne pas être impoli?

    Merci! (J’aime tes videos. Très utile! T’as l’air geniale.)

    David

  • Bonjour Geraldine.
    When one enters a shop, I understand you always say “Bonjour Medames et Messieurs”. And Au Revoir Medames et Messieurs” (and there are shorter ways to say that). Would one ever say “Re-Bonjour in this situation, ie., when you are talking to everyone?
    Merci, Christy

    • Bonjour Christina,

      “Bonjour Mesdames et Messieurs” is too formal for this kind of situations. A seller might say it to you, but not you as a client.
      A “bonjour” is enough. “Rebonjour” would be ok too in this situation, if you were re-entering the shop. 🙂

  • Good grief. So for people like me, who are often plongée dan mes pensées, I could be in big trouble. And what if you are interacting with people via the Internet? It’s Bonsoir here, but it’s already Bonjour in France. I hope I connect with French people who have a sense of humour. 🙂

  • One language resource I used said that you always say “bonjour” for the first time you meet someone in the day…even if it is evening, instead of “bonsoir”. Is this true? Or did I misunderstand?

  • Bonjour Geraldine! (Pour la première fois),

    Merci pour tout ce que vous faites! J’ai une question pour vous. Est-ce qu’on dit «Bonjour» une seule fois lorsque nous parlons par email aussi? J’écris beaucoup d’emails avec les mêmes clients chaque jour.

    Shay

  • In fact, the second time you see someone, there’s no need to say or do anything; you just carry on your conversation. The first time this happened to me, I was a bit surprised; then I realized it was normal. If you feel uncomfortable with that, you can just say the person’s name before you continue the conversation.

  • I don’t believe I have made this mistake before because even here in the states I usually wouldn’t say good morning or hello to someone again if I see them more than once, I would merely acknowledge them so I guess I have applied that same sense while learning French. Though at one time I was conversing with a native French speaker who said bonjour to me and then later during the day said coucou and at that time I had no idea what that term meant but now I do and after watching this video I understand why she would use coucou instead of bonjour again.

    Merci

  • So, does this apply for the next day as well? For instance, in a day you can say bonjour to a person and that’s it, if you see that same person again that day you would not say bonjour again. But if you see them everyday you can still say bonjour correct? For each new day? Like a coworker that you see everyday? I hope my question makes sense. 🙂

  • oh now i understand haha! happened to me a few days ago at work. I told the chef “bonjour” and he told me “mais t’ai deja vu, ah?”. Im m Greek and “deja vu” is when you have a strong feeling that you have experienced something before. I understood he meant “but..i have seen you before” but i was puzzled about why he found that so strange…so what do you do around here i wondered, you dont say hi anymore?

  • Bonjour Geraldine,

    I wish I had seen this just yesterday! I’m booking a stay in France and emailing back and forth in French (trying very hard to be polite) and in both emails I’ve said Bonjour. Now I know better! The first email I didn’t leave a closing, because I didn’t know emails were more formal than here (I learned that from one of your videos also!) and now I feel like I’m stumbling over myself and accidentally being rude in the process. Thanks so much for this. Your website is very helpful. Hopefully I will do better next time.

    Bien cordialement,
    Sally

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  • I have never heard of this rule, so merci for that. In the past, when greeting someone for the second time in the same day, I have simply said “Bonjour encore”… perhaps (I hope) that made up for the faux pas.

  • bonjour Géraldine

    Merci pour cet vidéo vrmat çà va m’aider beaucoup, parce que ce que je sais si que tu doit dire bonjour même pas au après midi et même plus que deux fois pas jour. moi je ne le sais pas ça aussi je ne le fait pas exprès. bon je te promis de ne répété pas cet erreur et je vais utilise rebonjour ou un petite sourie 🙂

  • don`t think i havesaid bonjour twice. but a couple of observations 1 French somtimes get greetings wrong ie bise men to men ? or shaking the womans hand
    2 bonjour even when its night
    3 salut insted of bonjour/bonsoir
    4To my french friends is it ok to say /kiss bonsoir then bonsoiree when leaving somtimes bon weekend
    5 its also rude not say anything I have done that and was reminded by the presedent of the club

  • Merci beaucoup Geraldine! J’ai aucune idée! In English we might say “Hello again” if greeting someone for the 2nd time – is ‘Bonjour encore’ acceptable? And is it equally rude to say ‘bonjour’ to someone more than once in an email or Facebook message thread? Merci beaucoup pour votre aide 🙂

    • Whoops! – I can see a mistake in my previous message 🙁 I had no idea – I think that should be – Je n’en avais aucune idée?? Je suis désolé pour mon erreur…

  • on peut dire “salut” or “tchao” au lieu de “bonjour” pour la deuxième fois ou ça parait impoli aussi?
    merci pour ton aide!
    serena

  • Merci beaucoup, Géraldine pour vos vidéos, je les trouve très bien faites, super sympa et très instructives. Pour moi ce sera une belle opportunité de faire progresser aussi mon niveau de français que celui d’anglais . Moi, j’avoue que, j’ai beau être en France depuis déjà quelques années, je ne me suis jamais rendu compte que dire “bonjour” plusieurs fois par jour à la même personne puisse passer comme une impolitesse, vu que dans ma langue maternelle, ça n’était pas du tout le cas. J’ai hâte de regarder les autres vidéos, merci encore une fois, à bientôt!

  • To be quite frank, my principal problem is how to know the right time at the evening to say “bonjour” or “bonsoir”. Sometimes I say bonjour and the french replys bonsoir, and vice-versa I say bonsoir and the french replys bonjour. SVP aidez-moi Geraldine…

  • How interesting! When I first arrived here, my neighbors kindly taught me to say Re-bonjour. They are so tolerant of my faux-pas! I didn’t realize there was anything rude about saying hello twice – I just thought re-bonjour was cool.

  • Geraldine! I wish I would have watched this one much sooner… For the past 3 months I’ve been working as a fille au pair in a tiny village, where I see teachers + parents FOUR TIMES PER DAY when taking the children to and from school. (I must be the all-time worst example of this!) I had no clue, I don’t speak French so I have nothing else to say. No wonder everyone seems so much friendlier in the morning! They must all be so annoyed with me by now, I guess better late than never!
    Thanks for all the work you do, I look forward to being able to use more of your tips once I become more conversational. (=

    • Salut Aubri,

      No worries, I’m 1000% sure they don’t think your “bonjour” are annoying. 🙂
      They know you don’t know.
      Now you do. Glad it helps!

  • Until my recent retirement I used to talk to my french colleague several times a day on the phone to discuss technical matters. We tended to alternate 50:50 between French and English. I always said bonjour, but he introduced me to rebonjour. I thought this was a way of being flippant, but I began to use it. He never explained that saying bonjour twice was rude, even though we had an agreement that we would always correct each others mistakes. Or are the rules different on the phone?

    • Hi Larry,

      Just smile or nod. You’re then showing that you see the person, greet her, but no need to say it again. 🙂

  • Thanks so much, this will help me embarrass myself less when I go to France haha XD
    I was wondering if it was ok to say something like ‘salut’ after the first ‘bonjour’, or is salut just for friends? 🙂

    • Bonjour Ally,
      Great question.
      Indeed, salut is for friends only.
      Bonjour and Salut mean the same so no “salut twice” either. 🙂

  • I said bonjour twice to our concierge at our holiday apartment and she said, if I said bonjour a third time, I would have to take her and her husband out for drinks. I spent the rest of the day hidding

  • at first it seemed silly to me why people would get offended. but i can equate to someone saying to me , “nice to meet you” when I have already met the person earlier.

    • Bonne question Matt.
      Si tu dis bonjour le matin et bonsoir le soir (après 18h), il me semble que ça passe.
      Il faudrait que j’y réfléchisse “dans la vraie vie”. 😉

  • J’avais remarqué cette différence, mais je ne savais pas ce que je devrais dire/faire au lieu de redire bonjour (mon instinct américain.) J’avais essayé « salut » mais ça gène aussi ! Qu’est-ce qu’on dit à sa famille en rentrant à la maison à midi ou le soir ?

  • I don’t think anyone would think this is rude to say “Bonjour” twice to the same person. Of course we would use “re bonjour” usually, just like we use “hello again” but I have never met someone who thinks that saying Bonjour twice is rude. Sorry…

    • Bonjour Artica,

      Merci for your message.
      It’s great to share your personal experience and feelings about this precise situation.

  • I have said bonjour to the same person on the same day many times and nobody has ever told me that it’s not the done thing. However, thinking about it ,when I do this the person usually just smiles back nicely. Thanks , now that I know I won’t do it again.

  • I asked a few French colleagues having read this article, and they were all baffled by the suggestion it was rude.

  • Hello everyone,
    I’ve never hear of any etiquette or protocole specifying that saying ‘bonjour’ twice could be ‘super rude.’ I would say that saying ‘bonjour’ twice would simply mean that you’re not paying much attention.
    For some established etiquette on salutations, here: http://www.french.hku.hk/dc
    [Excuse their/my French :)]

  • Yes I did know this – but had forgotton! I think my French teacher, who was French, probably mentioned it at school. I usually say ‘salut ca va?’ when re-meeting people throughout the day. Useful tip, thanks.

  • Bonjour Geraldine,

    Merci! I have heard re-bonjour (and re-bonsoir) before but did not know how rude it was to use bonjour twice. I have also had shop assistants saying “me re-voila!” if they serve you e.g. at the fish and then at the cheese counter – in this situation I have been using “re-bonjour”. Is that correct?

    I have a question: I use “allo” for the telephone, and “bonjour” for meeting in person or at the start of an email, but what should I say when the gate buzzer rings and I am responding through the speaker to find out who is at the gate?

    Merci encore pour votre travail, c’est super utile!

    • Bonjour Sue,

      “Me revoila” is very French too. 🙂 Yes, “Re-bonjour” as an answer is perfect.
      For the gate buzzer, you can use “Allo” as well. I use “Oui ?” too.

      Merci Sue !

  • Half the time I don’t even use the “bonjour” part; I just say “beh, re!”
    Regarding jour/soir, it doesn’t really matter, if someone looks at you funny, just correct yourself: “en fait, plutôt soir”

  • I made this faux pas last week. Said bonjour to the insurance guy as he left his office and then about 4 hours later said the same thing as I wasn’t sure what the etiquette was. Now I know. Thanks………..

  • Related to the ‘bonjour rule’ I’ve noticed that the French only seem to use ‘hallo’ on the telephone, never in person. Is this another greeting rule???

  • Thank you very much for this useful advice! Since I have been going to France for a number of years, I have had funny looks but I never knew what it was about, and my very polite French neighbours did not say anything either! Last year I was in a situation where I saw people for the second time in the day. I somehow thought that kissing them again and saying Hello was strange but I did not know what to do! Sayng Re-bonjour is a good solution. I never heard of that before. The other expressions are very good also.
    Merci bien Géraldine!

    • Hi Anke,
      Thanks for sharing your story.
      Next time, just use Re-Bonjour or slightly nod but don’t do “la bise” again. 😀
      A bientôt Anke.

  • i do have a Q on bonjour and bonsoir… going in to my shop i need that the clients feel like they have time to look around.i say bonjour…i havent had the time to look at the light outside at 6:30 at night in the winter its dark. we always have a war with jour and soir. when is the exact hour to use this term??? In winter?

    • I start using bonsoir around 6PM. Whether it’s night or day (=winter of summer).
      Other French people might say differently, as there’s no written rule.

  • I work at Harley Davidson and the guys and girls come in to the boutique and we always say ALLWAYS “bonjour”. they might leave to go to there bike or buy a bike and we don’t see them for another 3 hr ..and i see them again. often i say bon.. re bonjour… its all about keeping in your head who you already saw. yes very complicated. and they don’t like it when you say it 2 times.

    • Hi Stephanie,
      Thanks for sharing your experience.
      Yes, the trick is to remember who you’ve already seen that day.
      Well done you.

  • I didn’t knew about this rule. Now I understand why every time I sayed for the second time Bonjour to the same person, they always answered me with a non very kindly : RE BONJOUR!!!!!

  • Excellent advice – thanks for the video.

    (FYI I’m only hearing audio out of one speaker. You should have your video person duplicate the mono track so that we hear audio out of both sides.)

  • Yes this happens to me a lot. I work in a shop and when I return in the afternoon it’s natural for me to say hi again to my colleagues. After the penny dropped, I started to ‘re-bonjour’ but the temptation is still there!

  • Hi, thanks for this tip, I have made this mistake and been looked at oddly, and now I know why. Re-bonjour is a good way round it, thanks.

    • Hi Donna, ahahah, yes, French people may look at you oddly. But no worries even I forget sometimes that I saw someone during the day (goldfish memory…). 🙂 It happens to us all.

  • I hadn’t heard of it either. This is JUST the kind of useful information I was hoping to get from your site/hints. Thanks!

  • No, I have never heard of this rule and I have never noticed anyone be upset. It’s odd because I studied French in Paris for 6 months and none of the tutors mentioned it.

    • Hi Susan,
      Try to listen to how other students say hello the first time they see you and then the second time.
      Let us know what you hear. It would be a great feedback.

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