Thanks to Whale’s disability we are entitled to a certain amount of help, including 8 hours of housework per month.
Originally my neighbour, Claudine, was happy to oblige but she is not in good health and the paperwork involved when someone is off sick is complicated, to say the least.
Needless to say, I was relieved when, with a bit of help from the doctor, her illness was ‘upgraded’ so that she could work part-time, thus reducing the need to send off various forms every time she wasn’t well.
However, snce the death of her husband , she has become much worse and, after a trip to the ‘medecin de travail’ she no longer has to work. She recommended a friend to take her place and so Francine has been coming this month.
She is a delightful little lady, bright and chatty, and very thorough. She even went after cobwebs I hadn’t seen!
The only problem, as with most French people, is whether to use ‘tu’ or ‘vous’.
It seems that the rule we learned at school – NEVER to use ‘tu’ unless you were really sure you knew someone well enough – doesn’t apply nowadays. But French people have different views on the subject all the same. Some find it easy to ‘tutoi’ while others are quite uncomfortable with the idea so it’s not a good idea to assume that you are being friendly by addressing someone informally.
After four weeks of trying to remember to use ‘vous’ but occasionally slipping in a ‘tu’ without thinking, I finally got around to asking Francine what she preferred as she was leaving today.
“Oh, it’s fine for you to address me with ‘tu’,” she smiled, “but I’ll continue to call you ‘vous””.
There followed a discussion about different views among French people and she told me that when she worked for ADAPAH, a society which organises home help, she was strictly forbidden to use ‘tu’ or to ‘faire la bise’ (greet someone with kisses).
“But you’re not a servant.” I protested and this led to a conversation about class distinction. It was a bit delicate, because I had the impression she wasn’t entirely comfortable using ‘tu’ but she realised that I found it unfair to use ‘tu’ to her if she didn’t reciprocate.
She suddenly broke into a huge smile and the deal was done.
On va se tutoyer. (We’re both going to use ‘tu’). But she’ll forgive me if I forget and lapse into the odd ‘vous’.
Why do the French have to make such a simple thing so complicated?