Bonjour and bonsoir.

It is typical in France to greet someone you are passing. In America there’s of course the universal “hello”, and in Nepal “namaste” is customary. (Incidentally, I think “namaste” is one of the coolest greetings ever – it translates to “I salute the god within you”.)

In France, you may greet someone with either “bonjour” (good day) or “bonsoir” (good evening), depending on the hour. I’m never quite sure what time of day we cross over into “soir”. I’ve been greeted with a “bonsoir” as early as 5pm, and just now, as the church bells in the tower pictured were chiming 7, I was greeted by two people with a “bonjour”, just as I was saying “bonsoir”. It’s not quite as fraught a situation as deciding to address a woman as “madame” vs. “mademoiselle”, but it has been a source of minor stress and confusion in my French life here.

Anyone who knows more about the vagaries of the French language is welcome to weigh in with advice!

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