France Travel Tips
The French are known for their etiquette and social grace, so by following a few basic steps of etiquette you may not be seen as a typical tourist and can enjoy your trip to France. Ignore the stereotypes about French people being rude or snobby and by understanding their culture you'll be greeted with open arms.
Learn the basic necessities of the French language
When entering and leaving a restaurant or a store it is important to greet staff with a “Bonjour monsieur/madame” and then an “au revoir” when leaving. The word “Merci” for thank you is one word in particular you should learn.
Loud obnoxious behaviour is not appreciated
If you behave in this manner you may find the locals will take a deep sigh and raise their eye brows. This is their way of indicating that they find your behaviour rude. Yelling across the room or to a person on the other side of the street may be perceived as angressive behaviour.
Be sure to bring a gift if you are invited to a home in France
Gifts such as wine, champagne, flowers and chocolates are always a welcomed gift. A bottle of Australian wine is always a nice touch despite some people believing that French people will only drink French wine. Flowers should be given in odd numbers and from a florist. Quality chocolates are welcomed so ensure you get them from a chocolatier not the supermarket. “Quality not quantity” is a good rule of thumb.
Gifts are generally not opened in front of the giver
This may be done later when the other guests have left. It is also a good idea to send flowers to the Host the morning of the party – this gesture is greatly appreciated.
Your character may be judged on your table manners, so remember the following tips
- Wine glasses should only be filled half way, not to the brim
- Hands above table at all times, but no elbows on the table
- Bread is never cut, instead break with your hands and place on a bread plate – not on your main plate. In less formal dinners when a bread plate is not used the bread can be placed directly on the tablecloth
- Slurping or loud eating is not appreciated
- Once the lady of the house places her napkin on your lap – follow
- Tear a piece of bread and then eat rather than taking a direct bite out of the bread.
- A piece of bread is used to mop up any sauces, gravy etc. But a fork should be used to do so.
- Use cutlery at all times – even with finger food.
- When in doubt, follow the leader. This is particularly important as you must remember not to start eating until the Host has begun, not to toast and take a sip until the Host raises their glass or to leave the table until the Host has invited you to do so.
If you’re in a restaurant – don’t think your waiter is ignoring you
French people take a lot of time and effort into preparing their meals, so when they serve you – they don’t want to rush you through your meal so sit back and enjoy their efforts.
Don’t snap your fingers and call the waiter “Garcon”
A French waiter being called garcon ("boy" translated) is a French stereotype, and snapping your fingers is considered rude. If you require service gently waive them over and use “s’il vous plait” ("please" translated) to get their attention.
French people commonly wish to catch up for a drink when socialising
However they aren’t likely to meet you at a pub for a night of heavy drinking. The French commonly prefer an aperitif which is sipped and generally does not exceed 2 drinks.
By dressing appropriately this is a reflection of your respect
If invited to a dinner in France and you turn up in your tracksuit pants and hoodie – a French person may find this offensive and a sign of your lack of respect for them and may feel they are not worth the effort of dressing up.
Dressing so you don’t stick out like a sore thumb
The rule of thumb is when gracing the public in France that you dress at least business casual. This way you won’t stand out like a tourist and blend in with the locals as French people (particularly Parisians) take pride in their attire.
French people aren’t big on hugs in public
Greetings are generally done with a hand shake or by kisses for people you know well (usually a kiss or “air kiss” on each cheek).
Walking and eating is generally a no-no
The French prefer to sit and relax as they enjoy their food. Meals are generally eaten at the dining table and not eaten in front of the television or computer.
The French value their privacy
So it is always a good idea to avoid asking personal questions, unless you know the person very well and they initiate more intimate conversations.
Leave your money on the counter
In Australia we hand a cashier the money for our items or to pay our bill at a café. In France the common way to pay is by leaving your money on the counter.
Look but don’t touch at the fruit stalls
This is also the same for many other produce stalls. Kindly asked the person working at the stall for the product you want and the quantity so they can select the items for you. When eating said fruit you slice then eat, not take bites directly out of the fruit.
Don’t rummage through a pile of clothes in the store
The store assistant will help you find your size.
One doesn’t talk about money
French people aren’t interested in how much money you make and bragging about wealth is not a done thing. Asking someone about financial matters may be considered taboo.