Help me out with some quick business French!
September 16, 2008 5:59 AM   Subscribe

Urgent business French question! Is "enchantée" appropriate for business use?

I'm going in to a meeting with some French customers in about two hours. I took enough French in high school (and am rather well versed in Spanish) to feel comfortable introducing myself and exchanging a few pleasantries. I would like to do so when I meet these customers, just to make an effort to be welcoming.

BUT, I've never had to use French in a business situation, and if there's anything I learned about Spanish when I lived in Mexico, it's that there's often a disconnect between what I learned in high school and actual etiquette. Is "enchantée" appropriate when meeting business clients? (As a Hollywood-brainwashed American, I get visions of flirtatious French men kissing backs of hands when I hear "enchanté", unfortunately). Any other quick suggestions for business etiquette? I know there are plenty of guides online, but I don't have time to read them and prep for my meeting...

If it matters, I am a 20-something female addressing who are likely to be 30 or 40-something males.
posted by olinerd to Writing & Language (23 answers total)
Not a direct answer but have a quick look at this page on French business etiquette in the mean time.
posted by rongorongo at 6:08 AM on September 16, 2008

I don't believe it's inappropriate in the least. I'm fairly sure I've heard it around the office when new people are brought in, and it's a standard response to an introduction.

I am not a Hollywood-brainwashed American, I am French Canadian and I work in a bilingual government office. I don't see anything wrong with saying "Enchanté/e", and it doesn't conjure up the image of smarmy flirtatious French men when I hear it.
posted by splice at 6:14 AM on September 16, 2008

No, don't say that. It suggests a level of interest that you probably don't intend.
posted by felix at 6:15 AM on September 16, 2008

It would sound a little silly to me; flirty in a bizarre retro way that would come across as either very corny or weirdly nerdy and not in a good way. If I were a man and were addressing a considerably older woman (say, I was 40 and meeting an 80 year-old), I might use the term as a kind of "polite" way to show respect and acknowledge the beauty of a woman beyond a certain age. As a woman, I wouldn't use it. It's the men who are supposed to be enchanted by me, not the other way round!
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 6:16 AM on September 16, 2008

I agree that it's probably a bit too flirty. My experience is also in french canada, however.
posted by cmyr at 6:19 AM on September 16, 2008

Best answer: Well, what can I say. I was brought up in a French Canadian household, went to French Canadian schools, and I work in a bilingual office. Again I say that it never had any flirtatiousness attached to it, ever, and I was taught it was a common reply to an introduction.

Perhaps women are taught differently. But I clearly recall receiving that very reply, more than once, in professional settings. I never attached anything to it and I very much doubt there was any subtle flirtation going on. Make of that what you will, but at least you know where I come from.
posted by splice at 6:28 AM on September 16, 2008

Best answer: I work in Brussels, and regularly hear "enchanté(e)" used (and use it myself) in a completely neutral, polite, professional context, used by either gender when speaking to either gender. As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing flirty about it.

If you're at all uncomfortable though, you could just say "Bonjour/Bonsoir," or tell them your name as you shake hands.
posted by creeky at 6:39 AM on September 16, 2008

Response by poster: Alright, I'll take my chances with "enchantée"... thanks for your help everyone!
posted by olinerd at 6:42 AM on September 16, 2008

You will have, I assume, a heavy English accent. They will understand if you say it and not take it to be a weird flirty move even if they'd never ever say it in an office, because people tend to be a little more tolerant of second language speakers. (FWIW, though it doesn't strike me as inappropriate, I've never heard it in any French or bilingual office I've worked in. This seems to be an office-specific thing.)

Bear in mind that you may have trouble understanding their accent (especially if your teacher was from Europe and they're from Quebec or vice versa), or they may do the thing where they respond to you in English and you respond to them in French. This is not generally an insult.
posted by jeather at 6:43 AM on September 16, 2008

When I've heard it in business settings, I've thought it was weird and flirty, but it was very clear from the francophones in attendance that I was the only one who thought that way.

Just go for it and act like it's something you say naturally.
posted by Acari at 6:48 AM on September 16, 2008

Well, what can I say. I was brought up in a French Canadian household, went to French Canadian schools, and I work in a bilingual office.

Isn't it rather important whether the poster is asking about France or French Canada?
posted by smackfu at 6:54 AM on September 16, 2008

Just don't wink or blow air kisses afterward, and you'll be fine.
posted by mkultra at 7:00 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

This wikibooks page doesn't seem to have a problem with "enchanté(e)" in a formal setting:

For the people who think it sounds stilted, are you native francophones? I mean, there are plenty of commonplace French phrases that sound weird when taken literally by anglophones; "je vous en prie" as a formal thank you is a good example of something that also sounds very fussy and stilted to American speakers, but isn't really.
posted by aught at 7:02 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Isn't it rather important whether the poster is asking about France or French Canada?

Yes, which is why I state where I was coming from, so that the asker could judge the answer appropriately. If the question was about French people from France, the asker would be clear on whether my experience applied or not.

Perhaps you ought to ask those who didn't include such information just how their answer applies.
posted by splice at 7:11 AM on September 16, 2008

i'm a native french speaker from France. "enchanté" is appropriate in that case. It's not flirty unless you say it in a flirty tone, it's a bit old fashioned though.
posted by SageLeVoid at 7:15 AM on September 16, 2008

As someone who worked in France for 8 years straight in a professional context, I can say it's not considered weird or flirty there at all, either.
posted by hazyjane at 7:15 AM on September 16, 2008

Worked in France for a while, years ago, and heard it/used it in business contexts often. As long as you use(d) a normal, business-y sort of tone, there's nothing flirtatious about it. In English, "Nice to meet you" and similar can certainly be flirtatious if you bat your eyelashes, lean in, speak like Marilyn Monroe, etc. If your body language and tone are all about the business, then the word will be too.
posted by rtha at 9:28 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Neither is it weird or flirty in Francophone Africa...

(Leaving this comment for posterity's sake)
posted by BobbyVan at 9:30 AM on September 16, 2008

It's fairly normal to use that. Just don't hold their hand and stare into their eyes, say it, and then linger.

Otherwise, it's fine.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:37 AM on September 16, 2008

All French sounds weird and flirty to Anglophones. Don't sweat it.
posted by flabdablet at 9:57 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Montrealer here, now living in the US and working with some people from France. Sounds fine to me.
posted by tangerine at 12:30 PM on September 16, 2008

Pimsleur French I uses this phrase in a business setting. Enchanté away!
posted by jewzilla at 10:24 PM on September 16, 2008

Enchanté == Pleased to meet you
posted by gmarceau at 4:19 AM on September 17, 2008

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