The Two-Hour Goodbye

Clock - two hour goodbye

I am definitely slowing down, because ever since arriving in France, when I’m out and about, as midnight approaches, my head starts rolling back toward my neck, which I have to make an effort to snap back when I’m à table or at a party with mes amis françaiss. When I was younger, I regularly stayed awake until 2…but usually 3am, with friends and co-workers, drinking wine, bowling, or just watching tv after work, unwinding with the baker’s favorite dinner: A big bag of tortilla chips and a jar of salsa. Times have certainly changed, and now by 11pm, I’m ready to brush my teeth and hop in the sack, exhausted from another day of this constantly challenging thing called “life.”

I’m not much of a social animal, as people who’ve tried to corner me have discovered, which (judging by some of the awkward situations that I’ve found myself in), proves I’m not all that great at socializing. A lot of it comes from being squirreled away in the back of restaurant kitchens for thirty-five years, where it seems most conversations are about food, sex, cooking, sex, our lack of sleep, sex, who makes the best salsa, raunchy jokes, sex, and making sure the dishwasher is on your side. Because if not, they can really f**k you up. (And believe me, they will.) Nowadays, though, my biggest concern at night is simply remaining vertical.

When you go to a party in France, be it a dinner party or a get-together of another kind (even a rendezvous at a bar or restaurant), leaving is simply pas possible. Okay, it’s not impossible, but the process can take a good two hours or so. At restaurants in France, it’s considered rude to give someone the check before they are ready to leave. So people will linger as long as they want. (And they like to make sure that they do.) To me, it seems to be rude to be the first person to suggest leaving, even long after you’ve finished up. From the looks I get when I suggest getting the check and settling up, it’s like you’re telling your friends, “I’ve had enough of you. Time’s up.” And no one wants to be that person who’s the first to make a move toward leaving. Because no one wants to be the spoil sport, which seems to fall on my shoulders.

Parties are even harder, as there’s no crowd of people clustered at the bar, waiting for your table. (Although most Parisians are pretty good at being oblivious to people waiting behind them.) Because I don’t want to be known as always being the spoil sport, I will brave it out until it’s become a Herculean effort to keep my eyes open, and my head starts dropping and rolling around like it’s going to come off its axis. An hour later, after I’ve started the process of leaving, when I’ve finally made it to the door, after we’ve put on our coat and gathered the rest of our belongings, there’s the inevitable final goodbyes.

I was probably the only person in Paris to bemoan when the métro decided to run an extra hour on the weekends. In those days, no matter what was going on, no matter how long (and long-winded) someone was, someone would invariably jump up and announce they had to leave to catch the last métro, and others would hurriedly follow suit. Going to a dinner party, I knew there was a definite time-line for the evening, and that I would be in my favorite place in the world – home, and horizontal, in my nice comfy bed – not long after midnight. And after years in professional kitchens, I have learned to value each and every second of when I can be horizontal.

In spite of thinking of themselves as free-thinking individualists, Parisians collectively respected that dernier métro hour because they knew how impossible it was to catch a taxi late in the evening, especially on weekends. And I remember waiting in long, long taxi queues, bundled up behind twenty or more people, shivering in the cold, waiting as taxis came one-by-one…at irregular intervals, to pick up passengers. Services like Le Cab and Uber changed the landscape, but offer their own challenges. Mostly because in order to use them, you need to commader a driver on their apps. Once you do, and they say they’re coming, you need to be ready & waiting when they arrive. So if you hit that “Request” button and you’re standing in someone’s doorway, ripe and ready to leave, and people are debating some obscure topic like….

Me: Thank you for the lovely evening. Dinner was great and it was nice to see you.

Them: Thanks, how are you getting home?

Me: We’re taking the metro.

Them: Oh? Which metro?

Me: Line 13.

Someone Else Who is Getting Ready to Leave: Is that the one that passes by the Pompidou Center?

Me: No, it’s not. (At this point, a few other guests gather ’round..)

Another Person, Also Getting Ready to Leave: The Pompidou Center? Mais oui! There is a good exhibition of 1950’s ink blotches there.

Another Guest (Not Ready to Leave, but Not Wanting to be Excluded from A Conversion Where They Can Get Their Word/Opinion In): I saw it, and it’s not bad. But there is a better exhibition at the Musée Branly on Mayan symbol-removing devices, that they offered the gods during the sacrifices, when they made a mistake.

(At this point, my head being lolling back, again.)

My Other Half (Somewhat Oblivious to the Difficulty I Am Having, Keeping my Eyes Focused): Mayans? There is a pizzeria near me called Mayan.

(At this point I’m wondering why anyone would name a pizzeria “Mayan,” since pizza has nothing to do with Mexico, or Mayan culture. But I’m so tired, I let it pass.)

Our Host: I’ve eaten at the pizzeria and it’s okay, but there is a pizzeria in the 10ème that serves pizza like they do in Naples, although you can get a pizza with canned corn on it, too.

My Other Half: Have you been to Naples?

Our Host: Yes, we went last year. It was okay, but we prefer Sicily.

Another Guest: I just finished a book by a Sicilian historian, a 4381 page tome on the mores of Persephone. Have you read it?

Yet Another Guest: Ah, I have that book on Persephone on the pile of literature of my nightstand, which I’m planning on reading after I finish the books on top of it by Camus, Focault, Voltaire, and a few comic books. She was the daughter of Zeus. Wasn’t she?

Guest #3: Daughter? Yes. And by the way, my daughter is graduating from high school soon.

Our Host’s Wife: Your daughter is that grown up? I haven’t seen her in years.

Guest #2: Oh really? Well, we’ll have to plan a get-together. What is she studying in school? Is it still the late Greco-Roman algorithm for the angles that they built the stairs leading up to their temples?

etc…

Because it’s France, everyone wants to get in that all-important last word, which can prolong the goodbye at least an hour. Maybe two. Meanwhile, you’re smartphone is dinging and vibrating away in your pocket, and your driver is pulling away because you don’t want to be rude and interrupt while people are debating pizza, Italian cities, or comic books.

Like everything in the world, at least according to commentators on a certain news-style network in the states, this maybe can all be blamed on the media. The French have television shows that go on for hours, literally, where people talk and talk and talk…and talk and talk and talk, while audience members sit behind them, perched on backless benches, listening to them intently. (A friend of mine was in the audience of one and he described the experience as agonizing. Which, in the name of diplomacy, I’m going to assume he was referring to those backless benches.) In America, people tend to speak in short sound-bites, no doubt moderating their discussions and cutting them short to make room for the copious amount of advertising. Another cultural difference: I’ve never seen a commercial for something like “going commando,” in France, which I saw the other day in the states. Which I sincerely wish I hadn’t.

Another difference is that in Paris, you’re required to say goodbye to everyone, personally, looking them in the eyes, before leaving any fête. Even if you haven’t really talked to or interacted with someone, you need to go and shake their hand if they’re a man, or give them les bises (the kisses), if it’s a woman. Although sometimes with women, you shake their hands if you don’t know them very well when greeting them or saying goodbye. Unless you’ve talked to them for an unspecified period of time at the party. But sometimes, you do bisou women when you meet them, if you’re a man.

If you’re a woman, generally you bisou other French women when meeting them, whether you know them or not in social situations. But men shake hands, in business and pleasure. Although some men bisou each other, depending on how well they know each other, often in family situations but it happens with close friends and you kind of need to use that few seconds upon greeting to size up each and every situation and figure out what approach you’re going to take in that split second as you’re leaning forward to say goodbye. Confused yet? If so, you’ll be glad to know that there are French charts out there to help.

cartebise

[Chart Source: Combien de Bises]

As you can see, much depends on what part of France you live in. Sometimes you make les bises up to 4 times, although according to my Parisian partner, twice ça suffit – or, is sufficient. (The chart actually says it can go up to 5, but I’ve not seen or experienced that. I could imagine if you had to bise fives times when leaving a party, if there were fifteen people in attendance, you’d be responsible for a whopping seventy-five kisses. I’d need to start getting ready to leave around 9:15pm.)

Some people throw ya for a loop by starting with the opposite cheek. I start with right cheek to right cheek but have done some awkward nose bumping with people who do the opposite. (I’ve not determined what determines which side you start with.) With that, I gotta go because I’m exhausted just thinking about it. And I’ve got a few more hours before I can pieuter, or hit le sac.


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89 comments

  • March 2, 2015 6:45pm

    The lengthy goodbye is one of those things that I just can’t get used to. When I want to leave, I want to leave! So I usually just say a brief goodbye, do the requisite number of kisses as fast as possible and hightail it out of there.
    I’m sure some people consider it rude, but once the giant, painful yawns start in, all I can focus on is getting home and into bed!

  • Judy
    March 2, 2015 6:58pm

    David, you are the funniest writer! I so look forward to your blog updates & this one is indeed priceless!
    Love you soooo much. Never change. Your honesty is funny, direct and charming.

  • March 2, 2015 7:06pm

    Brazil is similar, you must greet (handshake or kiss depending in M or F) every single person when you arrive and then do the same before you leave. Even if there are 25 people all sitting around a long table you must slowly go around and kiss every person there. Now that I live in California I have slowly tried to migrate in the opposite direction, more Irish goodbye.

    And number of kisses varies by region as well, one in Sao Paulo, two in Rio and three in the North!

  • March 2, 2015 7:07pm

    I’ve definitely stayed later than I want to at parties just so I don’t have to say good by to everyone (specifically the ones I never talked to). But I’ve also started to “ghost” at times. Saying goodbye is impossible when you’re exhausted!!

  • soozzie
    March 2, 2015 7:08pm

    You may linger over your French goodbyes unless your hostess brings out a tray of orange juice. In that case, drink up, say good night and hit the road. We thought this was an urban myth, but then it happened to us one night. And then I began to notice that all of our French friends have orange juice in their fridges, even though none of them ever seems to drink it. It is there simply because they may need it one night, when the guests refuse to go home. Voila!

  • Hillary
    March 2, 2015 7:11pm

    This made me laugh out loud! But what of the host who wants to get rid of his guests? When we were visiting Paris we read in a travel guide that if you are visiting a French home, and the host offers herbal tea or orange juice, that means the evening is over and you should say your goodbyes, rather than accept the beverage. (We did visit our friend and her French boyfriend for dinner one night, and he DID offer us herbal tea at the end of the evening, although he swore that he wasn’t trying to get rid of us when we teased him about it…)

  • Su
    March 2, 2015 8:14pm

    David, thank you this was hilarious! I am hearing you and can totally relate to your preference of being ‘in’ rather than ‘out’! I can certainly handle les bises (having Italian heritage) much more than the long farewells…

  • March 2, 2015 8:50pm

    Hilarious. As a newbie Paris expat, who just this weekend experienced the eyes-falling-into-their-sockets scenario at a dinner party, I can relate. I didn’t want to be the one to suggest leaving first, but as soon as someone did—looooong after we’d all licked our trifles clean and polished off the wine—I was all, ‘Oh I’m going to get going as well.’ Then I just felt like a copycat. C’est la vie.

  • Kari
    March 2, 2015 9:03pm

    Hilarious! I frequently feel that way at American parties, I don’t know how I’d do it there!
    Kari

  • Stephanie
    March 2, 2015 9:04pm

    The real problem with these late French evenings is when people have brought along their kids….who are pretty good but they start to melt down around midnight yet the parents don’t seem to understand it is time to leave. I often have 4-6 kids at my house breaking down at 2am…..what are the parents thinking!?!? My husband says the parents are having a good time and I should take it as a compliment, but I am going to start requesting they get a sitter and come childless because I cannot take it!!

  • Russ Trapani
    March 2, 2015 9:10pm

    Wonderful story here David.. I’ve been to France 8 times, love the social times with friends….I so miss it there.

  • March 2, 2015 9:10pm

    Great article, David. The one thing (conspicuously) missing is gay men *always* seem to bisou upon first meeting. If you stick out your hand, the will look at you like you have 13 heads. This is particularly confusing when you know you’re in “mixed” company (str8 & gay)…this is where my bad gaydar reveals itself…because, straight men tend to stiffen up when you go in for a bise…but by the time you figure it out, it’s too late…you’ve already committed to kissing. Ah, Paris…

    /joseph

  • March 2, 2015 10:27pm

    Besides your cooking knowledge your writing is always interesting and in this instance very funny. I was lucky to meet and work under a Frenchman when I got out of school and moved to LA. We shook hands at the start and finish of every day. My art-major co-workers laughed at his habits but I liked him and we had a great friendship. It prepared me to be interested in learning customs in other countries when I finally got away and began regularly traveling in Europe.
    As to breaking away from evening gatherings I am afraid I would have been forgotten and uninvited within a year or so were I to move to Paris to live. Of course that would depend upon meeting enough people in the first place.

  • emily
    March 2, 2015 10:27pm

    My brother in law is Argentinian and he takes about an hour (I am not kidding) to leave even the smallest gathering. All of his friends are the same- it’s quite annoying if you have to wait for him to tell/be told yet another story while you’re standing there at the door with your coat on. On the other hand my friend is Italian and her parents would always offer what she called the ‘f***k off coffee’ – the coffee that they would offer you at the end of the evening to give you the hint that it was time to go. I’ve started doing this too – it’s a great way of politely telling visitors to hit the road.

  • Amy -Hunting Valley, Ohio
    March 3, 2015 12:33am

    David, clearly you are my twin. I also LOVE coming home after being out. Sometimes I dream of being placed under house arrest. You made me laugh out loud with your description of trying to say goodnight amid talk of pizza, Mayan sacrifices and daughters graduating from high school. It’s funny to me that you say you’re not particularly sociable because I read your blog and wonder where you get the energy to keep up what is to me a very active social calendar! Thanks for this marvelous French slice-of-life.

  • March 3, 2015 12:57am

    I can definitely relate to you about sleep: the older I’ve gotten the earlier I’ve been wanting to go to sleep. And the part about trying to leave and everyone basically keeps saying “bye;” the struggle is real :)

  • Sara
    March 3, 2015 1:21am

    Well, I sinned at the first party I was invited to in Paris! My brain was so frazzled from trying to understand and speak French that I just plain forgot to bid every single person au revoir. The American South is just the same, minus the bises…it takes at least an hour to leave any gathering, be it friends, family, whatever. So why do I think my natural impatience will find a home in France? MDR! And thanks for so many great blogs. I loved seeing you at the American Library this spring but I couldn’t stand to wait in the line at the end, I needed to get home and into my jammies…

  • Annita
    March 3, 2015 2:16am

    Thank you, David. I now have an explanation that I can share when we try to explain why all of the parties our French relatives have when we visit them go on forever, like the Christmas Eve dinner this past year that lasted from 8pm to 4:30 am! And why, when we left a lovely Sunday evening French soirée at 11:30 pm because we were still jet-lagged, another guest said, “But it’s early!” Fortunately we were able to use the fact, on New Year’s Eve, that the Line 13 was closing at 1:40 am and we had to be home before then!

    • March 3, 2015 2:35pm
      David Lebovitz

      I haven’t quite figured out why people want you to hang around for so long. I love seeing my friends, inviting them for dinner. And I enjoy being invited to parties and dinners as well. Am wondering if it’s part of the politesse to not show that you are ready for guests to go home, or that you’re tired and it’s time to split.

  • March 3, 2015 2:38am

    I recognise a lot of myself in this post; which worries me as I’m still at uni and apparently in the prime of my partying life! It doesn’t matter how hard I try, I just can’t keep my eyes open past a certain point! 11pm – midnight is usually my limit; please tell me it isn’t going to get worse? At this rate I’ll be ready for bed before dinner is even served!!

  • João Victor
    March 3, 2015 2:55am

    The les bises things reminds me of something we have here in Brazil: here in Rio we share two kisses, but in São Paulo its only one, and when Paulistas come here they forget they have to kiss twice, and it makes them kind of lost. haha

    BTW I’ve just bought The Sweet Life in Paris. It was a surprise when I saw it in the bookstore, I had no idea there’s a Brazilian edition (translated to Portuguese! Which is great!). Will other of your works follow?

  • Lisa McNamara
    March 3, 2015 3:52am

    I think you need to watch the Bunuel film “The Exterminating Angel.” It takes the whole notion to the ridiculous nth degree. Trust me, it’s worth it:)

  • Amy B
    March 3, 2015 6:03am

    Thanks, David. This was fun to read. I read it out loud to my husband and we compared notes. He lived in West Africa for a few years where greeting and saying goodbye follow specific routines. After wishing each other “peace” several times (quickly), you need to inquire after each other’s family. So humane, though time-consuming, I guess. We both feel strongly about bidding our hosts good-bye after a party but I have to admit the kissing would take a little getting used to. ;-)

  • ron shapley(NYC)
    March 3, 2015 6:49am

    Is this a Woody Allen script ??? laugh, laugh, laugh.. Thanks Dave

  • March 3, 2015 6:59am

    Lol, this is amazing.

    I’m an American expat living in Japan with lots of European friends. Goodbyes (and hellos) are the most awkward experience and I dread them. There’s such a range of possibilities! Japanese people don’t touch each other and just bow like crazy (unless they’re drunk and feeling international), some people shake hands, some Americans hug or kiss once if you’re good friends, Europeans kiss everyone 2 or 4 times (even 6, apparently!). It kills me.

    Now I’m going to go curl up in a ball, horizontally.

  • a
    March 3, 2015 7:44am

    Funny, I just learned about the “French exit” from Portlandia. I guess it’s not the French way after all. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ck-PeP6Q-Uc

  • March 3, 2015 9:42am

    As a Dutch living in Paris with a French boyfriend, I totally get everything you wrote. I often give my boyfriend ‘the look’ to hint that I really, really would like to go home, but even than the process of leaving takes at least 45 minutes. Last summer we had friends over for lunch, they came at noon and left at 8 in the evening. All the time we were sitting at the lunch table, and it just never ended!

    And don’t get me started on those tv shows, I stopped watching them, I just can’t bring up the energy to listen to those endless monologues.

    But, even for a non French, the way waiters in the US present you with the check right after you took your last bite is a strange (even rude) experience. I remember a waitress asking me if I wanted another drink, and when I said ‘no, thanks’ she gave me the check that she apparently had ready behind her back :-)

    Ah cultural differences, you got to love them!

    • March 3, 2015 2:31pm
      David Lebovitz

      Some visitors to Paris think the waiters are rude because it takes so long to get the check, but living outside the U.S., you see how “rushed” you feel when the check is brought as soon as you swallow that last mouthful. I have a friend in New York and she’s a doctor, and told me that she’s so busy that when she goes out for lunch, she asks for the check as soon as she gets her food (!)

  • Jan
    March 3, 2015 1:55pm

    I went to school in Le Mans many years ago and 5 bises were mandatory when greeting friends. You had to arrive about half an hour before class because it was unthinkable to skimp on buses, or god forbid, skip someone…

  • March 3, 2015 2:39pm

    Haha! I so love the “bises” infographic! Seems like a whole new world opens up when one puts on a map how many bises to do where!

  • Lynn D.
    March 3, 2015 4:27pm

    My husband grew up in Idaho but went to college in the East. His roomate’s parents were prominent intellectuals with a lovely Park Avenue apartment. He went to a large dinner party there one night and was rather confused by the good-bye rituals. His hostess explained it to him–Gentiles leave without saying good-bye, Jews say good-bye without leaving–. Seems you could substitute various ethnic groups here. Bye the way, my son recently moved to Chile, where he reports they serve corn on pizza.

  • witloof
    March 3, 2015 6:18pm

    Everybody click here!!! And David, congratulations once again.

    https://food52.com/the-piglet/judgments/96-my-paris-kitchen-vs-olives-lemons-za-atar

  • Susan
    March 3, 2015 6:22pm

    I am so thrilled to be getting your blogposts! I have your cookbook and have loved reading it from cover to cover.

  • March 3, 2015 6:25pm

    I know this is going to hard to believe, but it’s worse in Brazil. And trust me, I was born and raised in Sao Paulo, and I lived in France for three years.

    Sao Paulo beats Paris by a long shot ;-)

    with the added complexity that if you are invited for dinner at 8pm, better be ready to arrive at 10pm and start eating at midnight. I am not making this up.

    Vive la difference! ;-)

  • Karen Hall
    March 3, 2015 6:27pm

    I’m sure you know the American saying:
    “Southerners say goodbye and don’t leave; Northerners leave and don’t say goodbye.”

  • March 3, 2015 6:31pm

    You completely nailed it.

  • March 3, 2015 6:33pm

    I can’t even tell you how loud I laughed when I read this and then the chart top it all off! Thanks so much for sharing and brightening up and otherwise gloomy day here in Michigan.

  • March 3, 2015 6:42pm

    We have experienced the same thing living in Italy. I have a group of women who come on Saturday night for English class. I told them when Americans leave, they leave! So now they all leave when I stand up but they stay outside beneath my window to say proper good by’s for another 15 minutes.

  • on the pond
    March 3, 2015 6:44pm

    Not going to complain about saying goodbye to my 76 cousins again! And I don’t have to kiss then all either!

  • Alice
    March 3, 2015 7:06pm

    I have a male cousin (he is Polish) who loves to bisou everyone! The American males in the family “freak out” every time. My brother in law has even perfected the locked arm handshake to prevent any type of kissing.

  • betsy
    March 3, 2015 7:07pm

    how funny, i love this. you really nail the restaurant work experience. my favorite part though is the baker’s dinner: a bag of tortilla chips and salsa–an explanation for my (baker) partners addiction to chips and salsa!
    thanks
    ps–as a mid-west american i am often taken aback by a handshake, stranger hugs and kisses OMG. i think i might have some personal space issues:)

  • peggy amante
    March 3, 2015 7:07pm

    David –

    Do you know that old poem:

    Go if you like,
    Stay if you choose,
    But for heaven’s sake,
    Just don’t ooze!

  • Jennifer
    March 3, 2015 7:15pm

    My mother’s family is from Mexico, so I grew up giving hello and good-bye kisses, hour- long greetings. Growing up in LA, hugs seem more traditional between friends, (unless the friends are European or from Latin American countries). I often end up kissing people on the ear, thinking I’m receiving a kiss, and well…..no, I just kissed another person on the ear.

    Also, if you think it takes a silly long time to give so many kisses for hello and good-bye, have you ever watched this on television?
    I may be caught on a bad day watching a reality show, possibly set in New York or Beverly Hills, (for the morbid curiosity), and the hello’s drag on forever. Nobody can decide whether a hug, kiss, double kiss. Has anyone ever thought of settling it once and for all??? I for one am tired of greeting ears.

  • Stanley warmbrodt
    March 3, 2015 7:25pm

    I was afraid that TWO HOUR GOOD BY meant that you were stopping your column !

  • Wendi
    March 3, 2015 7:27pm

    As most of our friends gatherings are on Saturday nights and I work the brunch at our café every Sunday I simply can not do the late Saturday nights anymore-especially after a full shift on Saturday. Actually it’s the perfect excuse as I too now have “lolling head” that usually hits me btwn 23:00-23:30. So what I do now is except the invites but I ask the hostess if she’d mind if I slipped out just before dessert. The problem is if I stay until after dessert and then start saying goodnight then other people start leaving, it’s a domino effect-and that’s not fair to the host/hostess. It seems to work out well.

  • Jude
    March 3, 2015 7:48pm

    It’s the same way in Costa Rica. You go to a party and kiss everyone there. Kids, babies, grandparents, the relatives from Panama…Then, when you leave, the kissing starts again. It wasn’t too bad for me as I am almost 6 feet tall, I would just walk around and kiss people on top of their heads…..they knew I was leaving.

  • chris
    March 3, 2015 7:56pm

    When hosting guests, as the hour got late, my wife’s grandfather would turn to her grandmother and say, “why don’t we go upstairs and let these nice people go home.”

  • susie keena
    March 3, 2015 8:24pm

    Wonderful article! gosh, when I want to leave… I just leave… I would probably fail miserably in France and never be asked back again :(

  • Bonnie
    March 3, 2015 8:29pm

    Perhaps les Français have a hard time leaving because they traditionally arrive late? Perhaps your “tendance” to be socially reclusive is the reason you LIKE secreting away in a kitchen cooking and not the inverse. No matter David—just stay happy and healthy most of the time ’cause I love your books and blog!

  • Joseph
    March 3, 2015 8:32pm

    I’m an American living in Italy who has had to resort to putting on my robe and saying buona notte to my guests. They laughed and they left. Perfetto!

  • Marcella
    March 3, 2015 9:38pm

    I feel your pain. I used to stay up half the night, too. Remember Maude’s on Cole/Carl? When that bar closed my friends would be knocking on my door fifteen minutes later looking to keep the party going!

    Now I go into a fugue state after ten pm.

  • March 3, 2015 9:38pm

    Loved, loved, loved your post. So glad you included the Combien de bises chart! Your posts always make my day and put a smile on my face.

  • Corinne
    March 3, 2015 9:41pm

    Hilarious! I relate, I am French married to a Romanian citizen whom I met in Canada, where we lived for 8 years. When we moved to France, the time we spent at the table for a meal & the time it took us to say goodbye used to drive him crazy … I just want to say to Anita who mentioned she stayed at the dinner table on Christmas Eve from 8pm to 4.30am that most of the French celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve & not on the 25th like they do in the U.S or in Canada.

  • Lucy
    March 3, 2015 9:57pm

    David! I’m just like you, I love my bed and when it reaches a certain time, I need to leave wherever I am no matter what, cause my pillow beckons me.

  • John Schnick
    March 3, 2015 10:04pm

    Great column!
    Much as I love getting together with Parisian friends, the long goodbyes and late hours can be a trial. My natural rhythm seems to be: bed by 10:00 and up at 5:00. You can take the boy out of the farm, but you can’t take farm out of the boy.

  • March 3, 2015 11:05pm

    Love this, thank you. I’m with you. It’s gotten so bad sometimes that I just leave and tout les personnes ask the next day, what happened? They’re friends, they’ve gotten used to it.

  • Fiona
    March 4, 2015 12:10am

    OMG….I’m a Canadian wintering in the Languedoc. Going to a dinner party on Saturday night with 40 people….will I ever get out of there? Will I have to start giving goodnight bisous 15 mins in so I can get round everyone?
    Thanks for all your posts David….I love how funny and real you are.

  • malagamommy
    March 4, 2015 2:22am

    SOUNDS LIKE SPAIN. I always think its because they dont really invest in good beds so they don’t really know how good it is to turn in early!

  • kathy
    March 4, 2015 3:34am

    Joy in reading…Ha! Love this little essay. Thank you for all – photos, food and words.

  • Domenica
    March 4, 2015 5:19am

    David,

    This blog post was the best! You are so funny, I was crying from laughing so much.
    Thanks for the laughs!

  • March 4, 2015 7:45am

    I now understand why my grandmothers suppers would last for hours.

    Honey Bunches, kisses from you would be a treat. Remind Romain that I am an old lady and I am (pretending) joking.

  • March 4, 2015 9:29am

    I have actually fallen asleep at the dinner table. Out like a light. Works a charm. Being a morning person has its advantages.

  • March 4, 2015 2:17pm

    Thank you for helping me narrow down my retirement country list.

  • Mary F.
    March 4, 2015 4:22pm

    Your article and the responses were some of the wittiest I’ve read in years, helped me forget I’m living thru one of NY’s coldest winters! As a fellow professional I also agree with being on good terms with the dishwasher, or else! I have worked in restaurants all my life and its true no matter where I’ve worked; dis the dishwasher at your peril!

  • Kiki
    March 4, 2015 6:00pm

    lol…. I start the bisous on the left side ;) Is that because in Switzland we give/receive THREE kisses?
    thanks for this, my lunch guests have just left NOW @ 4:30pm… (arrived @10:15….)! But I love them and Now I’m going to clean up the kitchen!

  • Catherine Saxton
    March 4, 2015 7:55pm

    Apparently, I had an Irish Aunt, who mom would visit with her friends. This was in Boston in the late 40’s, early 50’s. It was well known that when Nora would start removing hair pins, it was time to leave. My mom is 87 now. When she’s had enough of us, she’ll tell us she’s removing her hair pins, there are none. :) I appreciate your writing and photos. Have a lovely day!

  • Mimivac
    March 4, 2015 9:40pm

    I was born in Istanbul and grew up in Michigan. As a kid, my worst nightmare was attending (by force) the endless gatherings at the home of my parents’ friends. Saying “goodbye” meant an hour or more standing at the door talking to the hosts. It was excruciating for an unbearably shy pre-teen, since, eventually, questions about my school activities, etc. were aimed at me. The experiences so annoyed me that I now try to avoid saying goodbye at all costs. When I leave, I leave.

  • Tina L.
    March 4, 2015 9:58pm

    This is so funny…I feel somewhat vindicated-my French heritage must be coming out, because my husband always refers to my family as “the family of long goodbyes”. He now knows to tell me he’d like to leave about an hour before he actually *wants* to leave.

  • March 4, 2015 10:49pm

    This probably wouldn’t work in Paris, in fact they may find it intriguing, but a sure fire way to get people to leave my house after a dinner party is to put on Phil Ochs albums, and I mean albums, the old scratched up ones I’ve had since the 70s. Something about him just clears the room in a Manhattan minute.

  • Kelly
    March 4, 2015 10:49pm

    You’re not old yet! Because I promise you, the urge to be home and in bed at a decent hour, well, let’s just say the ‘decent hour’ moves farther and farther south, until before you know it, you’re engineering all your invitations to happen for lunch, or better, brunch! Thank you for a hilarious culture commentary.

  • Robert Levineq
    March 5, 2015 1:45am

    David:

    I couldn’t find a better place to leave this comment. Two suggestions that you may wish to check out for your pastry app: Edwart Chocolatier, 17 rue Vielle du Temple, a new place with extremely elegant ganaches, and Au Petit Versailles du Marais, 27 rue Francois Miron, a gorgeous pastry shop with excellent things made by a meilleur ouvrieur de France.

  • Helen McHargue
    March 5, 2015 2:21am

    My sister was a master at the long goodbye. It took at least two hours, even if I was alone. It seemed the act of leaving triggered memories of everything she wanted to show me over the prior month or whenever I had last seen her. I’d always plan the goodbye time into my schedule so I wouldn’t have to cut her off or leave abruptly, after only an hour or so of goodbye. Sadly, she’s gone now and I’d give my eye teeth for just one more of those crazy goodbyes.

  • chou
    March 5, 2015 2:23am

    If you are confused for the cheek : start usually with the right one in Paris, the other for the “Province”. People can also improvise though ;)

  • March 5, 2015 9:35am

    i used to struggle in france with the very long meals and the very long goodbyes that succeeded them. i look back with regret now on my impatience, but really. EVERYTHING TOOK SO LONG!

  • Wendy in Brittany
    March 5, 2015 11:30am

    So hilarious to wake uo to this! I soooooo relate ….. Methinks that the Long French Goodbye is sort of a combo platter of the complicated politesse rules here, the loooooovvvveeee of talking, and the worship of social gatherings (no matter how awkward). I always remarked upon my French-born husbands penchant for long chats with everyone here, now I realize it is a cultural norm. Finally I am getting into it a bit, but I too have trouble at night when I want to leave……

    My fave part of this piece is the faithful recreation of the actual conversation ….. Even when I am dying to leave, I appreciate the interesting turns of French conversation!

  • March 5, 2015 11:36am

    Thanks for the amusing post!

  • March 5, 2015 4:19pm

    I’m right there with you! I come from the Czech Republic (where people hardly ever kiss in social situations, though it is becoming a bit more common) and live in the Netherlands where 3 kisses are customary – but it is unclear which cheek you should start with. Another confusing habit: when you go to a birthday party, you are expected to congratulate not just the person celebrating their birthday but also anyone related to them and possibly any close friends, too. Even after having lived here in 15 years and despite being fluent in Dutch there are some occasional embarrassing moments…

  • Susan
    March 5, 2015 5:46pm

    I can’t put my finger on when we in the US became so European in our social manners. At first, I started noticing how people handled silverware. They kept the fork in their left hand and ate with it, upside-down, and were hanging onto their knife to use to push food onto the fork as well as cut meat with it. Having been taught to only hold the fork in the left hand while cutting meat, then switching hands when spearing the meat to eat it, the Continental way looked and felt so awkward to me but the logic and simplicity of it made so much sense! It still looks like people I had known for a long time, who had previously been eating the “American way” were putting on airs! I’m accustomed to it now but still forget and eat the way I was taught!

    Then came all the hugging and cheek kissing. That was really awkward for me. A smile, a nod of the head and how do you do and/or some other small comment at an introduction is all that’s necessary when meeting someone, especially a new someone! It really puzzles me that people find it reasonable to be so physically personal yet are offended if you ask questions that they think are too personal!

  • lorenzo
    March 5, 2015 8:05pm

    Ah, cultures & subcultures. Here’s the New York version of the phenomenon:

    Jews say good-bye and don’t leave. Protestants leave and don’t say good bye.

  • luka
    March 5, 2015 10:17pm

    The back of the restaurant kitchen is not different anywhere. I totally understand you about the ability of being invisible learned throughout the years.

    In Brazil you may add soccer aside sex as subjects would make you master the unsociability. lol

    In São Paulo, 1 kiss. In Rio 2 kisses. But you arrive or left the parties the time you want.

  • Dewi
    March 6, 2015 8:04am

    You are so so so funny David. I couldn’t stop laughing. I used to read your post first thing in the morning, but now I read it before I go to bed. I think it’s really nice to be able to laugh before going to sleep. Good night!

  • Susan
    March 7, 2015 12:35am

    I too wish I had not seen the ‘commando’ commercial. I thought it interesting that they chose a young woman with a British accent to ask the questions. Loved the baked pears. I used cinnamon sugar since I already had a shaker full at hand.

  • March 8, 2015 8:46pm

    Hilarious! It’s a bit like an Irish wedding – it’s just impossible to leave! On which cheek to kiss first, my experience has shown that it depends on which hand the person writes with. If they are right-handed they are inclined to go for the right cheek first and if left-handed the left cheek. Not sure that helps, though, unless you know the person well!

  • Louise Yenovkian
    March 10, 2015 6:03pm

    Oh yes – how true. Most European cultures take their time in saying “good bye” As an American Armenian – there are foreheads kissed, 2 hour good byes, eating of more food, one more espresso, an argument thrown in, more kisses….. this event goes on for hours. The only way to leave is to “escape unseen also known just get up and leave!!!” I would not change any of it! Keep cultures and rituals intact. Makes the world a more interesting place.

  • March 10, 2015 11:08pm

    Dear David, I found your account of the goodbye conversation hilarious !!! Such a typical example of the weird directions a discussion can veer off on.

  • Ann
    March 12, 2015 9:28am

    In Australia we do things differently. First the guest says they are leaving so there is a 20-30 minute chat in the lounge before they stand up. Then there is another 15-20 minute chat till they reach the door. Once outside we chat with them at the doorstop for about another 20 minutes and eventually walk them to the car. Once there we all stop and chat for a further 15-30 minutes until you get into the car. When you get into the car the men talk together and the women talk together for a further 20 minutes, then everyone decides they are in a hurry and the guests drive off. We stand there waving till they are out of reach as they wave their hands out of the car windows, Its a very very very looooong goodybye here and it happens every night somewhere. I am friends with other nationalities and the goodbyes are super quick, I always feel deflated when I leave as they just walk off and leave us alone to drive off into the dark night.

  • March 14, 2015 8:31pm

    You have filled me with dread. My wife and I are moving to France in two months. I dread parties for this very reason. I’m always the first person ready to go. It seems like everyone’s said what they have to say two hours in. My tactic, much to my wife’s horror, when the party is at our house is to announce when it’s time for everyone to leave. They often don’t believe me… Love your blog!

  • Deepak
    March 16, 2015 4:09pm

    LOL love the part of kisses

  • March 17, 2015 1:17am

    hah you always make me laugh OMY! but these things not only happens in France (believe me) Im not too social :)
    Love how you talk about this!

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