My husband hates to be late. I can’t understand why being late is part of French life. It was a shock for our daughter to find out that if you are late for school and the class has started, you could be locked out of the classroom. Schools are very firm on punctuality. So, when and why does the habit disappear later in life? In the town where we live there is the expression ‘the Reims 15 minutes’ – meaning that everyone arrives 15 minutes after the stated time. Apparently, arriving on time for social occasions in France is a cardinal sin and it is polite to be late! ‘Le quart d’heure de politesse’.
One distinct advantage of arriving on time is that there is no one there to kiss. Later arrivals are the ones who have to tour the room and greet everyone. It always seems very impolite to us Brits to have to break into people’s conversations, in order to ‘faire la bise’, then to have to leave that group in order to search out others that you have not yet greeted.