fountain of wisdom • visiting france & paris

French Manners & Etiquette

By George Josserme

Page 1 of 1

• article synopsis •

I keep insisting that one of the most difficult events in the life of anyone who is not French is to be face-to-face with French people.

It is because French people can tell if that person has been raised to be well-mannered, or not.

"I love French men! They talk to me in French and I melt, and their manners are so refined that they are nice even when they insult you."

Anonymous Traveller

FOR CENTURIES, THE PEOPLE OF FRANCE HAS EXPOSED to the world their Manners & Etiquette; their politeness and correctitude; how they act and behave. In a putrid XXI century where all that is grotesque succeeds, there is dwarf percentage of people who live life holding on to a set of higher human qualities. Those who do, will find French Manners & Etiquette easy to deal with. Those who do not, will confront differences that surface and reveal.

This article is not intended to be complete, but it will give you a solid understanding of what you will face when meeting with French people.

» After proper introduction, you refer to people that you just met using a title and their last name. French Manners & Etiquette mandate that you remain doing so until you are told to call them otherwise. Should you not know the marital status of a woman, her title is Mademoiselle.

» French people so highly regard taste and quality. Clothing is one way you have to denote your taste. It is NOT a way to show off how much money you have. Your attire is about taste rather than money.

» Compliments on the appearance of a person you recently met is inappropriate.

» Assuming there is a reason, it is well-received to present a tastefully-designed card displaying contact information. Do not present a card meant or intended for business!

» Should you meet with any of the people you were introduced to before ~whether a man or woman~ it is appropriate to make eye contact as you say "je suis heureux de vous rencontrer" or similar expression saying that you are pleased to meet that person again.

» When you leave any gathering, a hand wave saying "au revoir" or "a toute a l'heur" is not acceptable. A hand wave is practiced in North America [except Quebec] but not perceived favorably by French people. Instead, you make eye contact with a person that you exchanged words ~or had a short conversation with~ and offer a proper salutation. If that person is a man, you also offer a handshake; but you do not handshake a woman.

» If you arrange to meet with a group, it is somehow acceptable for women to arrive 5 to 10 minutes late. A gentleman is expected to have a trustworthy word, and he arrives at the time he was told to.

» Americans in particular grotesquely fail during a conversation and look away from the person they are talking to or they woefully answer a cell phone call. That person just sent a message showing the he or she behaves rudely, discourteously, lacking respect and consideration for others.

» Another way to show lack of respect and absence of consideration is to interrupt a person as he or she talks. You will impress them by engaging in a juicy and scholarly topic you are knowledgeable about, but DO NOT interrupt others and DO NOT monopolize a conversation with an endless monologue.

» It is of immense importance to not make comments or statements on French matters. Likewise, avoid issues related to politics, religion, or personal economy unless you are knowledgeable in such matters.

» French people find loudness rude and obnoxious. It shows neither respect nor consideration for others. French people are passionate by nature, and you may also be passionate as long as you do it when it is justifiable; but by all means do not get loud! - Passionate? Yes! - Loud? No!

» Questions such as 'what do you do for a living?' or 'do they pay well?' or 'where do you live?' or 'do you have a car?' are accepted in many societies, but in France... Do Not Get Personal!

» French people have Sidewalk Cafes because they like to look at people passing by, but there are strict rules. You may look at a person's attire, shoes, or hair style; but make sure you neither make eye contact nor smile or whisper a commentary. If you do not like to be looked at use the sidewalk across the street, and you are off limits.

» Should you be invited to dine in, at your discretion, you may bring a gift such as flowers or chocolates. It is advisable to not bring wine. Let the host match the wine to the food they are serving.

» You show disrespect and lack of good manners if you start eating before the host, or the person that cooked the meal, or the person that served the meal. Just wait until you are told to start eating.

» Meals usually consist of five or six bites. Your message is 'i didn't like it' if you leave on the dish a good portion of the food you were served. It is acceptable that you leave some food on the dish.

» French people have perfected the use of knives and forks. By all means, do not use your fingers to eat a chicken leg, to bite the meat off a pork chop, or any action involving your fingers in contact with food. The French are polished enough that they eat fruit with knives and forks.

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