A popular book that’s been making the rounds in parenting circles is called Bringing Up Bébé and asserts that French child rearing practices have a leg up on the American way of doing things — and you’ll raise a more well-rounded, polite and well-behaved child by doing it the French way. While I can’t speak to this directly since I 1) Don’t have kids and 2) Haven’t spent enough time with French kids to say, I can tell you one thing I’ve noticed about French children that stands in stark opposition to their American counterparts…
So first, if you’re interested in Pamela Druckerman’s book, the full title is Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. Check it out if that’s your kind of thing.
Moving on, let me say that French children seem just like American kids. They have tantrums and freak out just as much as any kid around. But I will say they seem more culinary adventurous. Blue cheese? Why the heck not. A bit of pate or foie gras? Sure. Aside from eating habits though, here’s something that catches me by surprise every time when it comes to French kids.
French children will say a friendly bonjour to you when they pass you in the park.
It seems to be when they’re alone (cycling ahead of their family or running past you with a friend). The most common age group of the kids who greet me seems to be between 6-11 or so and it catches me off-guard every time. In the US, we teach kids about stranger danger and not to talk to people you don’t know. But here in France, it seems that la politesse rules and an obligatory bonjour is what kids are taught.
Do I seem safe to kids because I’m often alone and a relatively young female with a cute dog?
I’m not a big threat if you were to size me up. Or do those things not play into it at all? Would an older man without a dog also get a friendly bonjour? Maybe they’re friendlier here because I don’t live in a big, dangerous city. Hard to say. I will note that the kids who say hi don’t want anything more out of the interaction. They say it in passing and don’t stop to say anything further or pet Dagny. It just seems like one of those social niceties that kids are taught. Yet my American ears always do a double take and a quick “are they talking to me?” before responding with an equally friendly bonjour.