5 Mistakes to Avoid in France
Following the “When in Rome…” mantra, there are a few things for you to keep in mind as a visitor in France. Out of courtesy and to maximize your experience, observe local customs and traditions. Just making small efforts to appreciate French people and their language yields warm benefits.
1. Parlez vous – Even if your French is minimal or ‘elementary’, begin your conversations or questions in French. In so doing, you acknowledge that you are the guest and you defer politely to the ‘host’. Does that sound terribly ‘Book of Etiquette’? I hope you don’t think so; because we all have our points of pride, and the French have great pride in their language and go to great lengths to preserve it.
Just a few French phrases will earn you smiles … and even warm responses instead of the French shrug. Purchase a simple French phrase book and visit on-line resources for pronunciations. I’ll assume you understand everyone should go armed with please, thank you, hello, my name is….etc. Others to learn might be:
Je suis désole I’m sorry.
Je ne comprends pas. I don’t understand.
S’il vous plait – J’ai une question (probléme) Please – I have a question/problem.
The small amount of time and effort you apply to learning a few phrases will yield incalculable results! (And by the way, if your French is painful to them, they will speak to you in English!)
2. Lunch breaks & tipping – Don’t fight the noon to 2 p.m. break, when everything is closed. Everything. As in banks, brocantes, fashion houses, boutiques. Yes, the occasional supermarket might be open; but for the most part cafés and brasseries and restaurants steal the mid-day thunder … and business. Yes, we are used to tipping handsomely for good service; but that’s not the way in France, where the tip already is included in your meal cost.
3. About those ‘strangers’ – Don’t grin your way down the street with a happy American smile for every stranger. You might be from the deep South or the frozen North, but French people don’t extend blanket friendliness to complete strangers. That is not to say they won’t be friendly; they just don’t spread the sunshine on their faces quite as much as we do. Unless …. we employ those magical French phrases we have learned!
4. About those ‘friends’ – Strike up a modest friendship, and be prepared to kiss! Pardon? Yes, kiss – sometimes even several times, traditionally twice in Paris- three times (or more) for those from the country or other regions. And I don’t mean planting a grand kiss on the mouth. You’ve seen it in movies or on TV, no doubt; when greeters sort of kiss the air by the cheek on both sides of the head. This subject deserves its very own post, but just flow with the French experience and tradition for now. Don’t be the first to initiate the kiss, but don’t reject this type of greeting or ‘adieu’ kiss either.
5. And speaking of shopping, always greet the store owner/help, when you enter a store. “Bonjour Monsieur/Madame”. Sounds so simple, but I well understand the hesitation and shyness one can feel at first in France. Forget that simple rule, and you might find your shopping experience to be chilly with little, if any, service. And don’t forget your, “Merci, au revoir” on departing.
Copyright © 2005-2017, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.