Picture the scene, you have friends over for lunch, the weather is warm and you are eating roast chicken, bought from the market that morning, outside in the midday sunshine. You can see the Pyrenees from your position at head of the table in south west France.

Sat around the table are 5 adults and 6 children. The partner of the fifth adult is away working, she has arrived with her only son and you have two children. The three remaining children belong to the other couple attending your banquet. All families are known in the local village of which you are now sat.

Half way through your meal a person, known to all, walks onto your patio where you are all sat. He has a question for you, the owner of the house of which he has come to. He approaches the table. You are sat at the far end so the uninvited guest must pass all other diners to get to you. You invite him to take a seat but he laughs it off saying that he has already eaten and has too much work to do.

As he makes his way around the table the women stand and he kisses them hello. He shakes the hands of the men who greedily push more chicken into their mouths. He laughs with the children, the older ones wanting to be shaken by the hand or kissed on the check to show how mature they are.

Finally, twenty minutes later your guest arrives by your side, shakes your hand and asks his question: a question that requires a one word answer. Satisfied he shakes your hand good bye and repeats the rigmarole of his arrival, kissing the women and shaking the hands of the men.

He leaves after receiving his one word which took a good half an hour to get from you. This is the French customary greeting. Whether you know the person or not who arrives, you shake hands, receive a kiss, and repeat as they or you leave. This happens for both social and formal meetings between all ages and genders in what is a mutual sign of respect and not only in small villages of France but in the big cities too.

Old friends kiss a hello, new acquaintances shake hands in a cheery salute and the young embarrassingly kiss the opposite sex ignoring their hormones and siding with tradition. It is something I intend to take back with me to the UK as my tenure on a goat farm comes to an end.


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