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Publisher's Summary

Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow spent a decade traveling back and forth to Paris as well as living there. Yet one important lesson never seemed to sink in: how to communicate comfortably with the French, even when you speak their language. In The Bonjour Effect, Jean-Benoît and Julie chronicle the lessons they learned after they returned to France to live, for a year, with their twin daughters. They offer up all the lessons they learned and explain, in a book as fizzy as a bottle of the finest French champagne, the most important aspect of all: the French don't communicate; they converse.

To understand and speak French well, one must understand that French conversation runs on a set of rules that go to the heart of French culture. Why do the French like talking about "the decline of France"? Why does broaching a subject like money end all discussion? Why do the French become so aroused debating the merits and qualities of their own language?

Through encounters with school principals, city hall civil servants, gas company employees, old friends, and business acquaintances, Julie and Jean-Benoît explain why, culturally and historically, conversation with the French is not about communicating or being nice. It's about being interesting.

©2016 Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoît Nadeau (P)2017 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"The authors clearly had a ball researching the book, and their glee is infectious. The writing is as light as it is substantive, and if that sounds like a contradiction, I would refer you to a soufflé." ( The New York Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Narration - Such an affected voice

The Narrator has an odd way of flattening out words and leaving them at the back of her throat. Its SO incredibly odd. I really like all the information in this book, but i have to stop and get a different book every few chapters to cleanse my ears before I can go back to it. Such a shame.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

About Half Way Through

Normally, I reserve my criticism of a book until I finish it. Many books start slow, are okay in the middle and then end wonderfully. This book may end wonderfully, but so far, I don't care for it much.

The narrator has a flippant and superior attitude in her voice. The book is written by people who come off as superior to the French and therefore entitled to criticize the French in a demeaning way. Maybe most non French people find this amusing. I do not.

Having been to France several times and considering retiring in France, I have found French people to be little like the people described in this book.

I'll painfully finish listening to it. So far I can't recommend it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting and Peculiar Insight Into France

Coming from someone that has never had the opportunity to go to France, this book notes very specific behaviors and actions that the French have and expect among their peers. I was very surprised at the level of detail that the book goes into presenting French life and culture, almost as if I were sitting in dinner table with the authors discussing their daily life in France. It enabled me to draw parallels and comparisons with American culture, and ultimately presented what I would assume France would be to a foreigner seeking to live in France for a long duration.

If you are curious about particular habits of the French and the reason for their behavior, then this book is quite a good pick. The only problem that I had with this book is that the structure and flow felt a bit odd. While the stories are not hard to follow, it's very loose in it's connections outside of the overarching theme of France. I can't say that I blame the authors for taking this approach; it's quite difficult to create an overall flow with a series of short stories only related in that they discuss behavior and practices. Yet still, there is definitely an oddity in how the story jumps from a bus ride into a discussion at the dinner table to a swimming pool. They are all great stories on their own, of course, with intriguing lessons, yet the book lacked a certain flow to it.

Nevertheless, I highly recommend this book if you see yourself staying in France for an extended duration of time. It has particular insights on French culture and quirks that are rarely found in more popular and easier to access sources. If you're staying for only a few days in France, this book would most likely help, but I cannot comment on the degree that the entirety of this book will aid you.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Fascinating and informative

This book was very good overall. My only criticism is that every chapter seemed to end very abruptly. All the content was engaging and well written. Superb!

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Smart, entertaining, excellent command of French language

Teri Schnaubelt's narration is engaging & intelligent--she speaks the French phrases beautifully: a big plus!

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting but a bit unfocused at times

I have lived in France for nearly 6 years between the ages of 32 and 38 while raising two children. I grew up in America. I think the authors did a good job of communicating many interesting and not necessarily well known aspects of French society, yet some of the anecdotes seemed a bit peripheral to me.

On another note, I didn’t agree with a number of the analyses in the book, and would say that about 2/3 of what the authors said resonates with our experience in France so far. There was a fair amount of quoting one or two academic studies as authorities on a certain aspect of French society or culture, when I thought there were other better explanations of the phenomena described.

I will recommend this book to people before or during a stay in France… but to be taken with a grain of salt realizing that the reader may come to different conclusions about the way French people act.

It’s full of personal anecdotes and stories. There’s also a certain amount of explanation of politics and society. FYI It is written with certain chapters by him and certain chapters by her.

Thinking about these issues, using the stories the authors describe, will be very useful as outsiders attempt to interact successfully with French people.

Final note- I wasn’t crazy about the narration, in part because, although she had a sort of French-sounding accent, she grossly mis-pronounced a number of French words. It’s no big deal but for most, but for readers who speak French, it gave an air of false authenticity to the book which is no fault of the authors. And if you don’t speak French, you may find the large number of French words and expressions difficult to mentally re-transcribe as pronounced.

Worth reading, yet I wonder if there isn’t a better intro to French culture book out there.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Extremely useful

Extremely useful for anyone visiting France. Very helpful for contrasting social conversations that differ between Europe and N America.