Morning Wine and Handshakes: French Village Pub Life Could Be Habit-Forming

In small-town Brittany, the local watering hole is everybody’s second living room

By Dave Fox
Mohon, France

When people enter the village pub in Mohon, France, they don’t just saunter up to the bar and order a drink. No, that would be rude. First, they greet everybody in the bar. And not with a lazy, “Hi everybody!” announcement. They go up to each person individually, say “bonjour,” and shake their hand.

It doesn’t matter whether they know you or not. It also doesn’t matter if you are deep in conversation with a friend. A gentle, quick interruption is the polite thing to do – a “bonjour” and a handshake. Then they can order.

When I arrive for my daily coffee around 10 a.m., the pub is already crowded. Burly men sip dainty, mid-morning glasses of rosé, or perhaps a kir – white wine spiked with black currant liqueur.

At lunchtime, a four-course meal with wine will set you back 11 euros. In the evening, the bar closes around 7:45 p.m.

The Mohon pub sells more than just drinks. You can buy lollypops and tobacco, postcards, wallets, and 30-euro mobile phones. You can bet on live, televised horse races. Need your printer ink cartridges refilled? They’ll do that for you too. In this town of 1,010 inhabitants, the Mohon pub also doubles as the village post office.

Mohon lies in the heart of Brittany (Bretagne), in the Celtic region of northwest France. In addition to the pub, the town center has a small grocery store, a bakery, a bank, a hairdresser, and a church that dates back to 1881.

Kattina and I arrived here two weeks ago. We’re pet-sitting for the month for a British couple who are letting us stay in their farmhouse. It’s a slight change of pace from our usual life in Ho Chi Minh City (population 11 million).

We’ve become regulars at the Mohon pub, as has Jez the Dog. (Guinness the Cat, in spite of his name, has better things to do than hang out in bars.)

Kattina and I go in each morning for caffeine while Jez flops down on the tile floor for a nap. When we can understand it, we catch up on the village gossip. And I’ll confess that, yes, after my €1.20 mid-morning espresso, I’ve taken a small liking to the local custom of a €1.20 mid-morning glass of wine.

For that reason, it’s probably a good thing we only have two more weeks here. A dainty glass of rosé – to make myself feel burly each morning before I wander across the road for my breakfast croissant – probably shouldn’t become a long-term habit. But as the saying goes, “When in Mohon, do as the Mohonans do.”

Just remember to shake hands before you order.

Published on Thursday, June 29, 2017

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