How to tip someone of Muslim faith
November 10, 2004 3:31 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to show my appreciation to the gardien of my apartment building. He helped me carry a washing machine up 8 floors some months ago, and he's a real nice guy. However, he's a practicing Muslim, so a bottle of wine won't do. In France, people often give an end-of-year gift for Christmas to the postman, etc. Ramadan is ending soon and the Eid is coming up. He's a fairly young, single guy, and recently he's had back trouble. Any ideas, seasonal or no?

Tips and thank you gifts always feel a bit weird to me. They can feel feudal or mafia-like ("I owe you"). Maybe I shouldn't give anything and just keep being a friendly, appreciative neighbor.
posted by Turtle to Human Relations (11 answers total)
(just wanted to say gifts feel weird to me too, but my partner, who is used to the culture we live in, is much better at giving them. i don't know if you live with anyone, and if you're american and they're french, but if so, then i'd suggest sub-contracting the gift giving to them to avoid awkward cultural moments... (and i hope the bad back isn't connected to carray a washing machine up 8 floors ;o))

for the gift itself, how about good coffee?
posted by andrew cooke at 4:09 AM on November 10, 2004

It's really important to be on good terms with your gardien. He can do amazing things to help you, or make your life hell, and he knows exactly what he thinks of each person in your building.

When I lived in Paris, I gave 10-15% of a month's rent in cash, along with a thank you note in an envelope, at Christmas-New Years. Technically, you have until mid-January or so, but it's better if you give just before Christmas. Even though he's muslim, he might be off on holiday over Christmastime.

Don't feel shy about it. It's part of the culture, and a proper way to say that you appreciate what he's done for you over the year. Gardiens are generally paid very little (although they get a rent-free place to live). Cash will be appreciated a lot more than a gift.

One other tip: always use "vous" when addressing your gardien, and call him "Monsieur (his last name)", unless he explicitly tells you to call him by his first name. Politeness and respect go a long way in French society towards establishing good relations.
posted by fuzz at 4:36 AM on November 10, 2004

It's been close to 25 years since I lived in Paris, so my memory is a bit foggy. Is the Gardien the same as the Concierge?

I can't remember the Concierge for our building but one of my friend's grandmother was concierge several buildings down the street. They always seemed to be women, but that might have just been my youthful recollections.
posted by smcniven at 5:45 AM on November 10, 2004

Response by poster: We call him le gardien, but I guess he's a bit like a concierge. One of his qualifications for the job is that he knows karate and protects the building from undesirables, who started a fire here a year ago. France has changed a bit in 25 years...

And I say "tu" to him and call him by his first name, which I think is fine in this case, but I would say "vous" to a more traditional older concierge, of course.

Thanks, I agree that end-of-year cash in an envelope is probably the most straightforward thing to do. I just hope I won't forget... And I should invite him for a cup of coffee some time.
posted by Turtle at 6:42 AM on November 10, 2004

(just in case i was misunderstood, i meant buying roast coffee, not inviting him to a cafe - i hope this doesn't sound bad, but one of the things i find myself doing is being friendly to people like this just because i'm guilty about the hierarchical relationship, and inviting someone like the chap who looks after our building to a coffee is the kind of thing i'd do because of that, then realise that we had nothing to talk about it when it happened.... i think this is where vous (usted in my case) helps.)
posted by andrew cooke at 7:45 AM on November 10, 2004

a small bag of very good, fancy tea. sweets.
posted by matteo at 8:51 AM on November 10, 2004

Don't know quite how appropriate this is, or how exactly you'd find out, but a lot of Muslims (because they can't drink) do smoke a storm. And not just tobacco. If you know he smokes, that would be a great gift (though, if he doesn't, it would be absolutely terrible!)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:36 AM on November 10, 2004

Tips and thank you gifts always feel a bit weird to me.

I've never known a single person who would be on the receiving end of such gifts to whom they felt weird. They are, in fact, often a more or less necessary supplement to whatever salary is involved. Cash is good.
posted by languagehat at 12:00 PM on November 10, 2004

If it were in America I'd say to get him a pie. At this time of year, pumpkin. Who doesn't like pumpkin pie?
posted by kindall at 2:34 PM on November 10, 2004

The cash-bonus at the end of the year/at xmas and a package of really really nice coffee is a great idea.
posted by dabitch at 6:18 AM on November 12, 2004 [1 favorite]

In my experience in the middle east, confections are a universally welcome gift. Boxes of candy, pastries, whatever. No pork buns, obviously, but some nice baklava, packaged attractively, would be fine.
posted by scarabic at 9:44 AM on November 12, 2004

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