Whether I’m teaching at Groupama, Société Générale, Lagadère Sport or Natixis, all of the companies have one thing in common.

No one knocks.

I don’t understand it – when I have a class, the meeting room doors are closed. Some of the rooms even have a window in the wall, so someone could actually look and see if someone is inside. But several times a week someone (at Soc Gen it’s always the same talking woman with a phone attached to her ear) barges in, then gasps and apologises. He/she then backs out in astonishment in the fact that someone could possibly be using the room that he/she wanted.

I’ve always had a very simple rule when it comes to door-knocking:

If the door is closed, you knock.

It’s not difficult! If the door is open and the person in the room is not expecting you, you poke your head in and asked if they’re available. If the door is open and no one is in the room, feel free to barge in and use it for your phone call.

Clearly the French don’t think like I do. The only times I’ve seen someone knock are when my class is in one of my students’ offices.

I’ve started using a Katia and KylieMac interview with Stephen Clarke about French clichés in some of my lessons. In it, he tells a joke which the English love, but the French never get:

‘A Frenchman goes into an English pub carrying a giant snail.
The barman says, ‘Jesus, where did you get that?’
And the snail says, ‘In France, there are loads of them.’’

The reason he thinks the French don’t get it, is because they can’t understand why the barman would want to talk to a snail when there is a Frenchman standing right there – it removes the Frenchman from the centre of the universe.

All of these French people who don’t knock think they are at the centre of the universe. They expect the unreserved room to be waiting for their phone call or meeting or illicit midday shag.

They probably think that the Australian English teacher is rude for having the indecency to be in the room first.

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