Being introduced to people in France can be quite a formal affair. There is a proper way to say Bonjour and Nice to meet you in French. When you walk into a party, you do not just walk in and say “Hey y’all” to the crowd and settle in.
I’m not exactly sure where that works, but it certainly doesn’t in France! That would be too easy, so intead there’s a whole set of rules.
You normally first greet the host (or the person answering the door) with a Bonjour, and then greet each person personally. One by one, you make your way through the crowd, with either a handshake or a bisous (kiss) on each cheek.
This can be a bit flustering if you are meeting people for the first time and trying to remember their names and your French conjugations at the same time. Which is why at this the point when you can channel your inner French James Bond:
Done and dusted. You don’t need anything more. I always translate this literally in my head as “Enchanted to meet you.”, as if pixie dust is being sprinkled and you have fallen under that person’s spell or something.
Alas, it is not quite that dramatic in French. It is not even meant to be flirtatious, the way it could be interpreted in English. It just really means “Nice to meet you”, in a very genuine, slightly formal and slightly debonair kind of way. Not bad I suppose.
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There are many other expressions, of course, to greet people in French, after that first introduction:
- Ravi(e)de faire votre/ta connaissance: Nice to meet you
- C’était un plaisir: It’s a pleasure
- Heureux de t’avoir rencontré: Happy to meet you (informal)
- Je suis content(e) d’avoir fait ta/votre connaissance: I’m happy to meet you
i) Formal vs Informal
If you have a basic background in French though, you will see the particular formal vs informal hazard that you may trip over.
Should you formalize your introduction with “Votre” or go informal with “Ta”? Note: It is feminine since “connaissance” is feminine. Which I realize makes it all the more confusing, you may complain to the Académie Française who makes these rules!
Anyway, since you are meeting people for the first time, stick with Vous (Ravi de faire votre connaissance). As you get to know the person more, you can switch to the more informal Tu. If you are in doubt, go with Vous.
On the other hand, if it is an informal house party where you are meeting people, the Tu would be more appropriate. Friends of a good friend would also be greeted with a Tu.
ii) Masculine vs Feminine
You will also have to remember to feminize the greeting if you are greeting a female: Heureux de t’avoir rencontré vs Heureuse? The difference in pronunciation is more subtle, but if you new to learning French it might be something you trip over. Also with this phrase, you have the informal trip hazard, since it could be Heureuse de vous avoir rencontré as well.
So with all that being said, it is much simpler to stick to the one-word greeting, Enchanté! To be fair, “Enchanté” is not used that often as the other phrases, and it would be a bit odd to greet a whole bunch of people all at the same time with “Enchanté”. You will need to mix it up a bit. C’est un plaisir! is also works quite well.
Nevertheless, I’ve decided I’m going to use Enchanté more often this year. Maybe it will brighten someone else’s day with pixie dust!