Why I am Monsieur Michel

Sheik MichelA peculiarity of paradise island is the use of first names instead of the family name in formerly addressing people. The island’s people have shed the use of formality and adopt an ancient method of address.

Back in the francophone EU people in public services always addressed me as Monsieur Sinnott or plain Monsieur. After moving here and doing the rounds of the usual services, such as banking, I was somewhat startled to be addressed as Monsieur Michel. Whether it be picking up a parcel at the post office or being delivered by the DHL man they all address me as Monsieur Michel. I found that even on delivery documents they note me down by my first name only. Even after presenting ID to the person they focus only on my first name.

What to make of all this? Is it a lack of politeness, is it a younger generation wanting a less formal attitude? Or simply an island thing? In most EU countries and especially in francophone countries formality is strictly adhered to whether on the phone or facing a person. First names are never ever used to greet a person unless a friend or relative. For example if you are a customer in a bank or client in a shop you would be addressed as Monsieur and your family name if known by the service provider. Anyone infringing on that etiquette would be either reprimanded or seriously frowned on.

Not so here, I get the friendly Monsieur Michel and the smile a bit like “hey man, wassup“. The first few times this took me by surprise as it is in contrast to what I was used to ten thousand kilometres away. However, here I am on a rock in the Indian Ocean with people calling me by my name like they are my brothers and sisters, that feels good. Shedding social barriers helps the integration along the way. After-all, I remember when back in a Middle Eastern country I used to introduce myself as Sheik Michel which always broke the ice and got local people doubled-up in laughter.

By the way, do you know the meaning of the name Michel? You have been warned!

מִיכָאֵל‎, Quis ut Deus?


0 thoughts on “Why I am Monsieur Michel”

  1. That’s interesting Michel and does sound a more personal & nice way of addressing people.

    The only time that it really happens to me (in bulk) is when I’m at the airfield, where everybody
    calls me by my first name, but then I guess as we all call each other by our first names there,
    it makes a friendlier atmosphere. Not even sure how many know my surname in any case…

    In your case though, I have known you for the last 50 years as Mike, so with your permission –
    I would like to continue to call you the same, but if you wish otherwise, then I’m sure you would tell me…???

    As far as other meanings for Michel:-
    ” Gone in Michel, popular expression which can be used, in computer science, to describe a system that is going crazy and totally out of control ” !!!

    I wonder…..???


      1. Well you’ve just reminded me of that, but at least you weren’t called “Froggy” as well – like me !!! (and I had nufin’ to do with the French)…


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