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Saying bonjour really makes a difference

  • Comments (32)

I recently had to attend an outpatient’s appointment at my local hospital. As I went through the front door, the reception staff gave me a cheery wave as I headed down the corridor towards the clinic. Two people that I passed in the corridor, who were in uniform of different kinds, said good morning to me and, at the entrance to outpatients, I was greeted enthusiastically by someone directing the traffic of patients.

Sometimes at outpatient reception the presentation of an appointment card has been carried out as a wordless exchange but not this time. I was again greeted with a good morning and directed to a bank of chairs. While sitting there a couple of hospital staff came through the area and said good morning to those of us in the waiting area.

Whenever I have been on holiday in France, I have wondered about the French custom of saying bonjour to everyone they met. Even someone entering a shop where others are standing queuing will say bonjour to all those already there. But actually I think the custom of greeting those that you meet acknowledges your common existence and binds us all together.

During my hospital visit I found the experience of multiple greetings and general friendliness a supportive and positive experience. While the cynic in me might think that they were only saying good morning because they had been told to, it was in fact part of their job, and a part that they did well and which made a difference to me as a patient.

  • Comments (32)

Readers' comments (32)

  • tinkerbell

    I agree. Haven't most of us met the 'dragon at reception' Little things mean a lot and can change the whole atmosphere, especially if someone is already feeling anxious. Even if they are doing it because they have been told to, I firmly believe in 'fake it until you make it'. It is quite an art to take details from someone for an appointment without even acknowledging their existence, without looking up at them and giving them some eye contact and a smile, they spread their misery on to most everyone else they meet, I would much prefer someone just say 'hello' and make just that tiny effort to spread a little bit of pleasantness, in the end they might even feel better for it too.

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  • Anonymous

    we (staff in the hospital at every level) always greeted our patients like any other human beings and often shook hand as well. it is normal. doesn't this happen in the UK as well? I am surprised it is being written about.

    If we approached a patient for the first time we would always introduce ourselves, shake hands and state our purpose. Even if they were unconscious we would grasp their hand to indicate our presence, introduce ourselves and say why we were there. we would never dream of carrying out any procedure without any explanation, ensuring they understood and getting their assent, and hopefully this is the same everywhere else as well.

    in the small town where I live we greet all in the street, even strangers, and in fine weather you may even invite or find yourself invited to drink a coffee on many of the café terraces with somebody you had previously only know by sight, which gives an opportunity to get to know them a little better.

    It is interesting to note quite recently though out in the street people have become so preoccupied with other things, and sometimes even their mobile phones, that the previously rather lengthy greeting has become somewhat abbreviated and sometimes you just get a grunt and with much briefer eye contact.

    Eye contact is also a weird phenomon in the UK, pass somebody in the street and people tend to avert their eyes away from you instead of offering an open expression with a smile or even a greeting!



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  • Anonymous

    thinking about greetings again, I can't understand how somebody would or could not acknowledge the presence of another or introduce themselves to a stranger, esspecially a sick person and patient. not only is it very basic good manners but to me it instinctive. Also, if I do not acknowledge another they may not acknowledge me either!

    Saying hallo or many of the other greetings we have at our disposition is not something everybody needs to learn as part of a job but something one is brought up with, although with all the recent management customer care and smile courses in some companies one begins to wonder.

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  • Anonymous

    Anonymous | 22-Jul-2013 1:24 pm

    You must never come to the UK. Just stay put in Enid Blyton Land. It's safer there. Really.

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  • Anonymous

    It's true about the UK.I lived in the usa for a long time and when my mum came to visit she thought I had hundreds of friends because they say hi/hello /good morning to strangers
    Here in the UK even if I answer the door to the postman when he has a parcel for me and I say ...Hi how are you ,he just ducks his head down and says nothing ........
    Same when I go up to a counter here in a cafe or store I say Hi and they just stare at me.........very weird

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  • Anonymous

    When people are commenting about the "UK", where in the UK are you talking about? Just where you live or everywhere in the UK?
    In the USA, there are some dreadful areas where people are extremely rude and where all this 'howdy good neighbour' stuff is non-existent. You are in greater danger of being shot than of someone being polite to you. But, I wouldn't tarnish the whole of the USA with the label. So maybe less of the sweeping generalisations, eh?

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  • Anonymous

    I travelled and lived in many different states while there and never got shot and didnt have a problem getting a hello or good morning from people especially if I was in their shop or cafe buying something!

    Same with the UK I have travelled and lived across many places and dont get any response.

    Which part did you live in the usa that your were in fear of being shot?

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  • As a general rule, NHS staff are incredibly adept at avoiding any contact with people they are not dealing with. You might not like to hear that, but in my experience, it is blindingly true. If an NHS staff member says hello to me in a hospital, I am comp,etely taken aback.

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  • Anonymous

    Oh dear. Of course, it isn't the same everywhere in the UK or in the NHS. I live in the north west of Scotland. No one would walk by anyone in the street without acknowledgement and our local NHS hospital is incredibly friendly. I'm sure there are other regions in the UK where this is true. One of my English friends worked in Glasgow for a while and always remarked on how 'nosey' people were because she was often being engaged in conversation (whether in a shop, on a bus, etc) and couldn't sometimes be bothered. She would have preferred to have been left alone. You can't please everyone.

    If people are so miserable at their work that they can't even be pleasant, then maybe that is where you should start. Deal with reasons they are miserable. There are many. Simply telling people that they are rubbish actually isn't going to fix anything. It'll only make it worse. You might not like to hear that, but in my experience, it is blindingly true.


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  • Yeah, I can quite imagine it, I have been to London.

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