French in Martinique

Greetings and Partings

A young woman walking up to the front door of a house

At present, the familiar greeting between friends consists of two kisses starting with the left cheek. For more formal greetings, a handshake is used. Since French is a language where the second person plural (vous) is used as a form of respect, one must pay attention to one’s grammar in various situations. Yet Martinique is far less formal than France and the informal second person singular (tu) is used quite liberally, not only between friends but often even in shops and restaurants between attendants and customers.

In more formal situations, for example when greeting elders or people at a business meeting, one should greet the other person with a handshake and use the formal “vous” form, until the other person shifts the tone to one of informality.

It is important for a traveler to understand that there is a much more leisurely sense of time in Martinique than in many North American or European countries. It is this quality of time that makes Martinique a place to relax. The relaxed sense of time extends into the norms of punctuality. When attending a private function at a residence, one can arrive anywhere from half to three-quarters of an hour after the designated time. When making reservations at a restaurant, one gives an approximate time, such as “between 8:00 and 8:30 p.m.,” and everyone arrives within that general time-frame. It is still required to be on time for business appointments, doctor’s appointments and school.

When time is written in any official capacity, the 24-hour clock is always used. However, when time is spoken about, either 24- or 12-hour clock is used, usually depending on the age of the speaker. As in many other countries, older people will use the 24-hour clock, and younger people will use the 12-hour clock.