Foreigners in France: A Cultural Survival Guide
1) French Kissing
Greeting people correctly in France is no mean feat. Men kiss women, women kiss
women, men sometimes kiss men. To make things complicated the direction and
the number of kisses can vary depending on where you are. It is best to let
the locals take the lead to avoid any embarrassing lip brushing situations.
2) Thank you- s’il vous plaît.
Despite international rumours that the French are rude, ‘politeness’
holds a very important place in French culture. Always say ‘s’il
vous plaît’ and ‘merci’ and remember to use ‘vous’
rather than ‘tu’ with strangers. Even with limited French skills
a little politeness can warm up even the frostiest Frenchman.
The French really know what they are talking about when it comes to wine, and
like to savour it. Do not be surprised if you are poured a ‘minuscule’
looking glass. If you want to fit in, try
not to drink it in one gulp.
4) Sunday Service
Do not try and go shopping on a Sunday. Nothing will be open.
5) No ‘faux pas-ing’ at the dinner table
Sometimes it is easy to get complacent with your French. A lot of words sound
similar in English and after a few too many vin rouges you suddenly think you
are fluent. But be careful of these common and dangerous mistakes.
“Je suis plein” – Unfortunately this does not translate as
‘I am full’ but can mean ‘I am drunk’ or ‘I am
pregnant’. Just say ‘je n’ai plus faim’.
“Je suis fini” – Saying this after a meal means something
like “I am expired” i.e. dead, so use “j’ai terminé”
“Je suis chaud” – This does not mean you are feeling warm,
it actually means you are feeling randy, so best to say “J’ai chaud” instead.
CTR Travel Writing Team Lyon 2012