Flowers and a bicycle help rendre hommage to Polly Platt--who loved to ride. Your help is needed in paying tribute this beloved author and speaker. Share your stories about Polly: your favorite anecdotes from her helpful books, a favorite tip that you learned from one of her articles, or a chance encounter that you shared with one of our favorite Francophiles.

hommage (oh-mazh) noun, masculine

    : tribute

Terms & Expressions:
  les hommages = respects
  rendre hommage à quelqu'un = to pay tribute to someone
  faire hommage d'un livre =
   1) to give a complimentary copy of a book to someone whom we respect
   2) to dedicate a book to someone

Audio File: listen to the French word "hommage" and to the expressions: Download Hommage . Download Hommage

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~<  Hommage à Polly Platt  >~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Today, we are remembering Polly Platt, who passed away over the holidays. Many of you knew her from her bestselling books, in which she helped us to understand a culture on which we have a flagrant crush. Some of you have had the chance to participate in Polly's French cultural conferences, where her verve and vision captured audiences. Others would have liked to have simply said "Bonjour!" to her, via email, but lacked the courage to contact the cultural diva....

(...and, here, not two weeks after my finger hovered over a computer mouse which, in turn, hovered over Polly's email address, I am kicking myself for not sending that letter. Polly, you would have surely encouraged me to aim higher than this keyboard--behind which I hide--in time to connect: because connections, you taught, whether with a culture--or within a corporation--are what make the world go round. While I had hoped you might be a mentor for me, I trust that you are here, putting a certain "esprit de vie" into this tribute: to a woman who I, who so many, never chanced to meet.)

                                          *     *     *

Thousands have already read the following hommage* which appeared in the Parler Paris Newsletter Thank you, Adrian Leeds, for allowing me to reprint your touching tribute, and thanks to Dianna and to Marian for forwarding it to me:

Excusez-Moi de Vous Déranger, Mais...
  by Adrian Leeds

Any American who has ever attempted to live in France has been helped over the cultural crossings by her profound insight into the French psyche and amused by her sharp wit. Her name is Polly Platt.

I have written of her often. She told her humorous stories at numerous conferences and events we have sponsored. She was a colleague, a friend and a guiding light. On December 26th, Polly left the world "after a bad pneumonia in Vienna surrounded by her family," as her daughter, Sacha, informed me just a few days ago.

Polly Platt was one of the rare Americans on the Paris scene, having lived here more than 40 years, who will stand out as having made serious impact on the American community living here. She taught us how to understand the French, maneuver just about any situation and most importantly, how to enjoy the French and their very unique culture. If it weren't for Polly, I would never have learned how to say, "Excusez-moi de vous déranger, mais..." and get whatever I wanted or needed.

I first met her at a book reading in the late '90s. She had only written one book then -- "French or Foe" -- and it had been self-published, but quickly flying off the bookstore bookshelves. It was read it cover to cover, taking it on the bus or Métro and carrying it everywhere like a bible. One instance, a
young boy saw me reading it and got very enthused to tell me that Polly was a friend of his mother's -- he felt so special to boast of it! Then, a friend from New York laid claim to having 'house-sat' her apartment one summer only to uncover a diamond she has lost from her ring, to which Polly was forever grateful. It was 'two degrees of separation' and the connection glued me to her just a bit stronger.

Polly was warm and friendly, completely curious, a bit 'ditzy' and marvelously funny. We became fast friends and even though she was a master story-teller and I just a budding writer, she never stopped encouraging me and 'propping' up my writer's ego. We would meet for lunch at a little bistrot I'd recommend (as the 'official' restaurant critic and guide writer between the two of us), arriving on her bike in even the most inclement weather, and then beg to hear some of my experiences as a newcomer to France.

One such story ended up being told in her second book, "Savoir-Flair! 211 Tips for Enjoying France and the French." On page 115, Chapter 9 titled, "Enjoying French Customer Service," Polly relates an experience I had attempting to buy bras with my daughter in the H&M on rue de Rivoli. She said it exemplified everything we (Americans) do 'wrong' when expecting the same customer service in France we expect Stateside...not to mention hilariously funny...especially when the bras went flying like torpedoes aimed at the sales clerks!

Once again Polly hit the nails on their proverbial heads with her second book. It wasn't a surprise -- we ate up every word.

Then we didn't hear from Polly for a while. She stayed more reclusive in her Dordogne home and gave up her Paris apartment on rue de Bellechase. Then she resurfaced with a new book, just launched this past autumn titled "Love à la française -- What happens when Hervé meets Sally?"

It's Polly's finest work. For every woman who has ever dreamed of finding love in France with a Frenchman, it IS the bible. Don't even attempt to "rendez-vous" with a Frenchman until you have read it!

One Parler Paris reader wrote, "If it weren't for her books, Pierre and I would not still be writing and talking to each other today (can you believe it?)... I would have given up on trying to understand him if I didn't have Polly Platt's books. I never met her, but she is a part of my life because she helped me make room in my heart for...'mon ami très cher Pierre'...her wisdom will live on." Florence

Losing Polly Platt is every American in Paris' loss. You can't see the tears rolling down my cheeks, but they're there, tasting salty as they hit my lips, from which I utter:

"Polly, excusez-moi de vous déranger, mais...que ton âme repose en paix."

A la prochaine...

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris


Polly Platt's books:
French or Foe?: Getting the Most Out of Visiting, Living and Working in France
Savoir Flair: 211 Tips for Enjoying France and the French
Love a la francaise: What Happens when Hervé meets Sally

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Larry Krakauer

I was saddened to hear of the death of Polly Platt. Reading her books transformed my experience of France.

When I first read "French or Foe", I'd already been to France five or six times, and I spoke French pretty well. But the book opened my eyes to the differences between French and American social interactions that I had never managed to observe myself, and following her advice changed my experience of France. Now, when I politely greet shopkeepers upon entering their shops ("Bonjour, Monsieur/Madame"), instead of just walking in silently as I had often done previously, I frequently end up in an interesting conversation, instead of receiving silence in return.

Not long ago, in my typical American hurry, I walked up to a gendarme in Paris, and forgetting the manners Polly's books had taught me, I simply launched directly into my question. He looked me in the eye, and said, "Bonjour, Monsieur".

Ah, yes. Even with a toll taker on the autoroute, I now say,

- Bonjour, Monsieur.
-- Bonjour, Monsieur.
(I hand him the toll)
-- Merci, Monsieur.
- Au revoir, Monsieur.
-- Au revoir, Monsieur. Bonne journée

To Polly Platt, merci.
Adieu, Madame.

jr from San Diego

I, too, am very saddened by the passing of Polly Platt. She was an author who seemed like a friend, althugh we certainly never met. I have read all of Polly Platt's books. I received Love a la Francaise for Christmas. I read it straight through. I could not put it down! I am so impressed by her skills of observation and am awed by how she put it all into perspective. As I read and reread Ms. Platt's books, I thought of the many situations that I have experienced during my 18 visits to France. How did I do? I was very fortunate! Now, armed with the tips and advice from Ms. Platt's experience, I am eager to return to France to try some of her many suggestions. Thabk you, Polly Platt, for enriching my understanding of France and the French.

Mary R.

As a high school French teacher, I always recommended Mme Platt's books to my students, especially the ones who planned to study in France. I had the good fortune to hear her as the keynote speaker at the AATF conference in St. Louis some years ago. Such warmth, insight, enthusiasm and humor!
Taking her advice about the "five magic words", I found that they were truly magical. I was in the gift shop of Les Invalides and bought a couple of china plates. We were visiting our son for a long weekend while he was studying in Paris, so had very small carry-on suitcases. I needed a box to carry the plates on the plane. I used the magic words when I saw that the vendeuse was putting the plates in a bag with just a little paper around them. I asked her if she had a box and she said that no, that was not possible. Mme Platt also recommended that it is good psychology to put yourself at their mercy, to explain how you need their help. I did this and the vendeuse immediately found a box, used very strong tape to wrap the box and also created a rope handle for the box-above and beyond what I had requested. All done with a great deal of kindness.
Merci infiniment and adieu, Mme Platt

Eve Robillardrobill

Kristin--Ah, yes. I'd just read Adrian's column. But Kirstin, dear, I wouldn't say you are hiding behind your keyboard; I can feel your energy & sparkling, ever-ready-to- learn personality in every gracious line you write!!! I am inspired! eve (who can't wait to read Platt's last title!!!)

Jeanette Locker

I feel as though I just lost a friend. Polly Platt's books were my first links to French culture from an American's point of view. And you, dear Kristin, have taken over where she left off. I would not miss your books nor your blog. Merci for Polly Platt, and merci for Kristin Espinasse. Jeanette

Merrie Dail

Lovely tribute and article. Isnt' it a little sad, and shouldn't it be a bit discomforting to us all, though that we need to be reminded to offer such small kindnesses and acknowlegements as we hurry through our days. It 'costs' so little whether we are in the US, France or anywhere else.


Polly Platt has left a wonderful legacy. Her writing and thoughtful insights have opened many eyes and created connections. May we all do as much good in the world as she has done.
Her little magic phrase " Pardon, j'ai un problème." is oh so useful. I also have proof that it works. Back when DVD's first came out, I bought one at a FNAC in France, not knowing that Europe had Region 2 and the USA Region 1. (not-compatible) They assured me at the store there would be no problem. A full year later, back in France with my students, with my receipt, I and the magic phrase and the DVD which wouldn't work in the Region 1 player were back in the FNAC. They refunded my 34 euros, to the amazement of all my French friends. Of course, I spent a lot more before I left, I was so happy to get my money back! Pas fous, ces français! Yes, I will always remember Polly Platt! Une vieille dame de NY. :-)


Like Mary, I also heard Mme Platt at the AATF conference in St Louis. Even though I had lived in France for 18 months and 12 of them with a French family, reading Polly Platt's books gave me such an understanding of things I just hadn't "gotten". "Excusez-moi de vous déranger" is the most important phrase I use when I'm in France! And it is one that I repeated over and over to my French students so that it became automatic for them. With just that phrase, Polly Platt has left a lasting legacy. She will be missed.


Thanks for sharing this with us franco-philes Kristin. I am very sorry to hear that we have lost our dear Polly Platt. I practically lived off her book Savoir Flair! the first time I did study abroad in Paris. Her books helped me to understand French culture and helped me to learn how to fit in. Her books, and my French accent picked up from my wonderful Parisian French professor, really helped me to survive life in France. I am planning on using her books as a reading assignment in my future classroom as a high school French teacher because of the valuable lessons my students will learn from her. We as lovers of all things French must carry on her legacy.


If it weren't for Polly Platt, I'd be smiling the entire time I stay in France (because I'm happy to be there.) Instead, I'm smiling on the inside and perfectly composed on the outside. I wish I'd met her, sad she's no long with us.

Jennifer in OR

Thanks for sharing with us about Polly Platt. Unlike most commenters here, I haven't read anything by Ms. Platt, but now look forward to doing so!

Jennifer in OR

Also, I meant to say, I LOVE the photo.


When my husband's company sent us to live in France, Paris was a temporary home for several months. For this southern gal living in that beautiful city was the most exciting thing I'd ever done. I fell in love. Polly Platt's "French or Foe" became my bible and I did my best to follow her rules. But, "no smiling" was très difficile. Everyday I would walk along the Seine, my face simply wreathed in smiles, until I saw someone approaching. Then the smiles would disappear and I would try to be the personification of my idea of a chic Frenchwoman. After they had passed on by my face once again burst into smiles, like southern sunshine...along with a few dance steps. It was so hard to contain my happiness; a feeling I never lost while living in ma belle France.
The rule about properly greeting someone, I actually liked and rarely failed to apply. One day it was aptly reinforced during a frantic search in the Carrousel du Louvre for la toilet. Concentrating upon the task at hand I forgot the greeting and blurted out my request to the young man behind the counter. He responded politely, then ended our conversation, smirking, with, "Bonjour to you too."
Merci Polly et merci Kristin.


It was with regret that I read of the passing of Ms. Platt since I had just put her famous comment, into practice yesterday. As a matter of fact, her book, "French or Foe", was tucked snugly into my baggage à main in our rental car, as I tried out these magic words for the first time. My husband, Mark, and I had just arrived in France and were driving from the port at Dieppe to our final destination of Lannion on the western coast of France. We had promised our friends, with whom we were to stay, that we would give them a call while on our way, to advise of our arrival time. I can speak and read "passable" French and although I could decipher the instructions on the payphone at the gas station where we had stopped, I could not, for the life of me, get the call to go through. Using first one credit card and then another, and finally trying a phonecard I had just purchased from the clerk behind the counter, I threw up my hands in frustration. Behind me, in an office, I could see a woman chatting with three gentleman who obviously worked in the shop attached to the station. I sheepishly approached the office, popped my head in and utter the famous words.......... Immediately, the woman jumped up from her desk, assured me that I was not disturbing her, and came out to the phone where we helplessly stood. She looked at the number, told me I had too many digits and waited until I powered up my laptop to allow her to copy off the information that our friends had given us. The number I had was not working in the callbox so she returned to her office, searched for our friends' name with directory assistance and dialed the number on her own phone. After a quick conversation with our friend, she handed me the handset and politely stepped away while a quick exchange of information took place. As I left the office, I thanked her profusely, as she nodded and smiled, all the while marveling at the success of my experiment. As we drove away, Mark mentioned that there were many reasons why he liked France..... most of all because the people were so friendly and helpful, while not forgetting to praise the wonderful food and wine. This comment, coming from my very British husband, was definitely not lost on me!


I must have been really out of the loop, because I don't think I had heard of Ms Platt when I came to France. This is too bad, because reading what everyone else has written, all I can think is of all the time reading her books would have saved me!! Instead I had to spend the better part of a few years figuring it all out on my own... Dommage!


I'm so saddened to read this news. Thanks for sharing it along with Adrian Leeds' column.

I found "French or Foe" in Paris in February 1995, and always thought Polly was a true original. She had credibility and humour and was ahead of the pack in writing about Paris and the French before the later flood of similar books came out.

I gave "French or Foe" to almost every friend who headed off to Paris, and others who were thinking and dreaming of visiting. Always, always I got the most amazing thanks and gratitude from everyone who read it.

Her death is a loss for all of us who love her books and have been touched by her knowledge, insight, and humour.

Sending Polly's family deepest sympathy.


I am going to miss Polly terribly. She was not only a good friend, but taught me so much. I am so glad we will have her joyful books to remember her by.

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