In a few weeks, I will be in France for a study abroad program. My group is there to learn about the French culture and what life in France is like. One of the most important things that we were told was how to behave during our time there so that we are not offending anyone or breaking any laws! This blog post discusses 11 ways to survive while living it up in France. Every detail from what to wear, what you can eat, and how you should act will be covered here!
1) What do people wear?
2) How do people greet each other?
3) What should I say when meeting someone new?
11) What should I do when I leave a house?
12) How can you tell someone is French but doesn’t speak English?
13) When is it appropriate to use the word “vous” instead of “tu”?
14) Why are there so many different greetings in France?
15) Where does one go to find bathrooms? And what happens if they’re missing amenities like toilet paper and soap. . . ?
Let’s start with the basics: what do people wear in France? First of all, there are no rules about what to wear. It doesn’t matter if you’re dressed up or wearing jeans and a t-shirt as long as it is appropriate for the place where you are going. You should dress more formally when out to dinner or at an important meeting but otherwise, don’t be afraid to show your personality through clothing!
The easiest way to greet someone new is by shaking hands (or shaking their hand). If they offer their hand first, take it in yours and shake hard for three seconds before letting go so that they know how strong you are; this will make them feel respected around other men since strength is often a sign of dominance. If they don’t offer their hand, you should extend yours and wait until they grab it before shaking with the same three-second rule as above.
When meeting someone in France for the first time, always exchange business cards (cartes de visite) instead of just exchanging names because a person’s surname is often what defines them professionally rather than their personal name which might be difficult to remember (especially if there are many people at an event). This also allows both parties to have contact information so that follow up can happen later on down the line.
If you’re out somewhere where food will be served and no utensils or plates are provided, it is polite to ask your host “avez-vous des couverts?” if there are any cutlery available.
Once your host has given you a utensil, it is customary to hold onto the larger piece of cutlery with both hands so that they can easily pass what you need (or in some cases, use the large fork or spoon for yourself).
When eating at someone’s house and serving yourself from their dish, always ask “Est-ce que je peux avoir une petite part de ça?”, which translates as “May I have a little bit of this?”. It will also give them an idea about how much food they should provide before offering more.
Asking for bread during mealtime is seen as rude because it suggests that people are not eating enough.
French people are very polite and they will never say “no” to your request for food, so if you feel like you’re being ignored in this sense just keep asking!
When outside of France, be aware that French wine is usually served at a different temperature than what’s customary elsewhere (cold) as it’s supposed to be the same way inside the country. Ordering beer instead might make more sense in these cases – or simply ask the waiter/waitress for their advice on what drink would work best with what dish. They should know much better than anyone else and can provide an excellent suggestion every time without breaking any rules or laws ;)
The coffee drinking habits in France are pretty similar to what you might expect in North America, although the French usually order it with milk whereas Americans tend to prefer black coffee.
French people are also very punctual and they will frown upon you if you’re late for a date or meeting – so be on time! (Just like most other places of course)
In France, tipping is always included as part of your bill; there’s no need for extra payments at all. Just make sure that when paying by card that the machine actually asks “tipping?” before allowing any further input because otherwise it’ll automatically charge your card without asking anything ;)
If someone invites you into their house, then don’t forget about shaking hands again after leaving – this is considered polite by many people here.