As well as being hopeless romantics, having exquisite cuisine, unparalleled fashion, elegance, sophistication, and impeccable French manners and etiquette is something we all associate with the Gallic nation. In this post, we’ll go over this topic and more so you can nail the correct actions when you interact with French people. Let’s go!
Mastering French etiquette is a passport to an enchanting journey through the rich cultural tapestry of France. It’s not just about saying “Bonjour” and “Merci” (although those pleasantries go a long way); it’s about immersing yourself in the art of savoir-vivre, the subtle nuances of polite behavior that make every interaction a delightful experience. So whether you’re traveling to the country or simply planning to speak with native speakers, this post is for you!
The Art Of Greetings
In France, greetings play a crucial role in establishing positive social interaction. A customary practice is to introduce yourself and greet others with a warm “Bonjour” (Good day) or “Bonsoir” (Good evening), accompanied by a handshake. Kissing on the cheeks, known as “la bise,” is common among friends and acquaintances, but the number of kisses varies depending on the region. It is essential to wait for the other person to initiate the cheek-kissing gesture to avoid any awkwardness.
However, don’t just go and expect La bise from everyone! One of the things you need to ask is which cheek to start with. Before commencing la bise, a cheek must be offered. Most commonly it is the right cheek that is offered by French people but in the south and south-east basic French etiquette rules that the left cheek be proffered.
But how many kisses should be given once a cheek has been presented? In most cases, two kisses are a safe bet. However, three may be expected in the south by a French person and in eastern parts of the country, just one on the tip of Brittany and in the far northeast, but four can be the norm in some regions of northern, eastern, and central France. It is also becoming more common for men to engage in la bise, not just French women, close friends, and opposite sexes.
Polite Language And Conversation
French people take great pride in their language, and the way they communicate reflects their cultural values. Politeness is highly valued, and using appropriate titles such as “Monsieur” or “Madame” when addressing someone is expected, especially in formal settings. Additionally, expressing gratitude by saying “Merci” (Thank you) or “S’il vous plaît” (Please) goes a long way in demonstrating respect and consideration.
Politeness is an integral part of the French way of etiquette, and it is essential to show respect to others at all times. In French society, people greet each other with “Bonjour” (Good morning), “Bonsoir” (Good evening), or “Salut” (Hi), depending on the time of day and the level of familiarity. Using these greetings is considered a basic courtesy, and it is rude to ignore or dismiss someone without acknowledging them.
When you meet someone new, it is customary to shake hands and make eye contact, even if you do not speak French or only have a loose grip on the French language. When it is time to leave, it is polite to say “au revoir” (goodbye).
French conversation is an art form in itself. Taking the time to engage in meaningful discussions and listening attentively to others is greatly appreciated. Interrupting or speaking loudly is generally frowned upon. Instead, the French prefer measured, thoughtful speech with an emphasis on clarity and eloquence. Engaging in small talk about culture, food, or current events can help foster connections and create a pleasant atmosphere. Feel free to talk about your personal life in polite conversation, but keep things positive.
French Dining Etiquette
French cuisine is renowned worldwide, and with it comes a set of dining etiquette rules that ensure a refined and enjoyable gastronomic experience. When invited to a French home, it is customary to bring a gift, such as flowers or a bottle of wine, to show appreciation for the hospitality of your French host.
Once at the table, remember to wait for the host to start eating before beginning your meal. Good French table manners require that you keep your hands visible above the table at all times, and it is a big no-no to rest your elbows on the table. To signal that you have finished eating, proper French etiquette requires you to place your knife and fork parallel to each other across the plate.
Another essential aspect of French dining etiquette is the appreciation of wine. Familiarize yourself with the basics of wine etiquette, such as allowing the host, sommelier, or French servers to pour the wine and refrain from filling your own wine glass to the brim. It is also customary to say “Santé” (Cheers) before taking the first sip.
French people take their dining experience seriously, and table manners at a table setting at a dinner party are an integral part of French culture. When dining with others, it is customary to wait until all the dinner guests are seated and for the host to start eating before you concentrate on your own dinner plate. Before you begin eating, it is also customary to say “Bon appétit” (Enjoy your meal).
When eating, it is essential to use your cutlery correctly. The fork is held in the left hand, and the knife is held in the right hand. When using the knife, it is customary to hold it with your index finger extended along the spine of the blade. It is also polite to wait for everyone to finish eating before leaving the table.
Dressing With Style
French fashion is synonymous with elegance, and the way the French dress is an integral part of their social identity. While personal style can vary, the French generally prioritize timeless and well-tailored clothing. Invest in high-quality garments and opt for classic pieces that can be mixed and matched effortlessly. Accessorizing with scarves, hats, or statement jewelry can elevate any outfit.
Additionally, when attending formal events, business events, or dining at upscale establishments, it is essential to be well-dressed and adhere to dress codes. For men, this often means wearing a suit or a blazer with trousers, while women may opt for a chic dress or tailored ensemble.
Punctuality And Respect For Personal Space
Being punctual is highly valued in French culture and cultural norms. Arriving a few minutes early to social engagements, appointments, and business meetings is considered respectful
The French value their personal space, and it is essential to be aware of this when interacting with others. In public spaces, it is customary to keep a respectable distance from others, and it is considered rude to stand too close or invade someone else’s personal space.
Similarly, when greeting someone, it is customary to kiss them on both cheeks (known as “faire la bise”), regardless of gender (see above). However, this is more common among people who know each other well, and if you are not comfortable with this, it is acceptable to simply shake hands.
Formal Vs. Informal Address
In French culture, there are quite a few guidelines and a few key phrases worth learning, and there are two forms of address – formal and informal. The formal address (vous) is used when addressing someone you do not know well or someone who is in a position of authority. The informal address (tu) is used when addressing friends, family, and children.
When meeting someone for the first time, it is best to use the formal address until you are invited to use the informal address. It is also important to note that the use of the informal address is more prevalent in Western countries and among younger generations, and older people may prefer to be addressed formally.
French Manners And Etiquette Vocab
|Please||S’il vous plaît|
|You’re welcome||Je vous en prie|
|Excuse me (when you couldn’t hear someone)||Comment?|
|Bless you (after someone sneezes)||À vos souhaits|
Learn More French Etiquette In Style With Ling
Learning more French is the first step to entering the fabulous world of French etiquette. The Ling app offers language lessons created by native speakers as well as fun games and quizzes to make the process easy and enjoyable. Choose from more than 60 languages today by downloading the Ling app from Google Play and App Store.