tu et toi, fundraising and flirting
with Letitia Jett

It's time for the game that Letitia Jett,  A Femme d'un Certain Age, and I play each week on our blogs. We compare our views on our adopted countries, France for Letitia and The States for me.
There are some things we really love, others not so much. Good or bad, fun or unpleasant, whatever our point of view, we bring it to you.

Tu et toi and you
I have lived in the United States long enough to be somewhat "Americanisée". By that I mean there are aspects of American life that I have adopted almost without knowing it. And consequently, I have "lost" the French equivalent , in a way. And one of these details I have subconsciously made part of my way of life is saying you. YOU? you ask. Yes, you. So simple; in English,  one says you to everyone and anyone, whether a child, an elderly statesman or the plumber.
In France there is tu and vous. Going from the formal vous to the informal tu is a ritual that is usually dictated by the sex and age and "station" of an individual. In business vous is mostly used with the possible exception of colleagues on the same level in the hierarchy. 
Surprisingly some  children still say vous to their parents and some couples to each other; But this happens in very rare instances in VERY classic families. 
Figuring out when to change from vous to tu is often tricky and one needs to ask whether it's allright to do so; the older or more senior person in a hierarchy chooses when to do so.

My ex mother-in-law addressed me as vous her whole life and her other daughter-in-law as tu and we both said vous to her of course; neither of us ever figured out why she made the distinction. 
And just the other day I had lunch in NYC with a French friend and a business relation of hers I see a few times a year, every year at the same times; he works with her a lot, but she still says vous to him. (by the way is is not an older gentleman one might not even consider addressing as tu, he is a youngish hip business man); addressing him I said tu in an élan of careless familiarity that felt appropriate since I now know him well enough and we always kiss each other's cheeks when we part; although neither seemed to have noticed or been surprised, I suddenly realised I should perhaps have said vous as she does. 
So, you see what I mean? sometimes very confusing...even for me, French,  born and bred. 


There is a lot of fundraising going on in the US. Schools, universities, charities all work very hard to raise money to fund programs they want to include in their organisations and there is hardly a week when we don't receive some sort of request for a donation or an invitation to a fundraising event. And mostly the fundraisers succeed beautifully.
A few years ago I volunteered to call a number of parents whose children went to the French school as mine did, and my list included a few American families and a lot of French parents and a number of other nationalities. My job was very easy when I talked to American families; they always graciously pledged to give money; no hesitation; no arguments. 
When it came to French families, I had to be EXTREMELY patient, convincing and thick skinned...I know contributions of this sort are tax deductible in the US which is not the case in France but I also think the big difference is a cultural one. Education is very inexpensive in public schools and universities in France and one is not asked to contribute any additional sums. Never. Another reason for the lack of generous enthusiasm was that a lot of the French children's tuitions at the school were paid by the companies where their parents were employed and surprisingly, to me in any case, they did not feel compelled to disburse any of their own money. 
Big difference; as I said, big cultural difference.

le flirt

There is a big difference for me between flirting in the US and France. Men in France ALWAYS flirt. They compliment you, they look you in the eye, they make sure you know they exist by showing you they know you exist.
Casual flirting is considered as something quite harmless, that should be taken in fun. In America, flirting is not part of the day to day interactions between men and women. While it can't be said that Americans never flirt with married men or women, it's certainly not looked on in general as acceptable. In France, flirting and flattery is commonplace and is often done without the sexual undertones that you might find in the United States. Simply garnering the attention or flattery of a man doesn't necessarily mean that he wants to go home with you. It's simply a way of treating and viewing women. Everyone does it; the French are always trying to seduce everyone — in the flirting sense of the word — and this can mean that men and women often flirt in a casual, good-natured way without a sexual proposition necessarily behind it.
Of course, the tricky part is learning to decipher the unspoken rules; I like the good old French approach; more and more so as the years go by...

Alors, what do you think? Agree, disagree? et toi,Letitia? Please leave a petit commentaire below or vite, go see a Femme d'un Certain Age 's take all of this and let us know; on which ever side of the ocean you care to leave your comment.
merci, Letitia, 
à lundi

au revoir.


  1. My chere Jeanne-Aelia,

    What I find most interesting about our weekly exchanges is the fact we truly do see and approach our subject slightly differently. You have definitely explained the tu/vous situation far better than I and your fund raising experience was fascinating. I have never thought about it from that point-of-view. It takes someone like you who understands the French hesitancy because of the society here to decode such reactions.

    And, of course, we both agree on flirting and you are so right: one must be quite cautious in the States. What a shame. Americans don't know what they're missing.

    Fabulous post. I've learned a lot today.

    And again what fun to be your partner.


  2. As I told Tish a few minutes ago on her blog, I always enjoy your shared lundi posts. The different view points are very interesting.

    How funny about your ex-mother-in-law calling one daughter-in-law tu and one vous. Sometimes mother-in-laws can be cruel in little ways, perhaps harmless to them, but hurtful none the less. With this topic, I know of what I speak. As foreigners with limited French, we'll stick with vous and take the safe route.

    The difference in the American and French point of view on fundraising is very fascinating. It does seem in American that there's always some cause to give to.

    My husband loves to flirt and we've been married forty years so there's no going back to stop him now. He's harmless, but I occasionally see some people misunderstand and look confused. How sad for them.

  3. Anonymous22/2/10

    It's funny - being a French Canadian (Québécoise), it seems that we're always like "entre-deux cultures". We're still doing some things as French does but with a "pointe d'américanisme". Nous ne tutoyons que si on nous en donne la permission, nous sommes plus charitables que les Français mais moins que les Américains, et nous flirtons pour le plaisir mais pas partout...

  4. The vous/tu thing always confused me when I was in France. I always felt like I was walking through a minefield of manners that I only half understood! :)