If you have French friends or are planning to visit La France or move in here, you might be wondering how you should conduct yourself to avoid awkward situations and also to show some respect.
Before coming here in France, I have already heard stories that Parisians were very rude. I was worried to be the subject of that rudeness so I did a few research. What I found on the internet was overwhelming. However, when I arrived here, it was not really how I expected it.
During my almost four years of living in Paris, here are the DO’s and DONT’S that I heard and noticed from the French people I encountered.
1. In public places
Keep your voice down especially in public transportation. Try to limit your phone calls to really important ones and do the chit-chat when you’re not beside someone who might be bothered by your noise and doesn’t want to hear your life story. I’ve heard many French complaining about people talking on the phone inside the Metro.
French would cast devious stares in your direction if you and your friends are noisy or rowdy in the metro.
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Use your headset when you want to listen to music or watch some videos on your phone when you’re in public places and even in the park. Some are reading, studying or sleeping or they just don’t like your favorite music. Bluetooth speakers are really a NO-NO if you want to show respect.
2. Blowing of nose
In the Philippines, people will find it disgusting if you blow your nose in public places especially in restaurants. You must go to the toilet or stay away from everyone. It’s because of that noise which gives us ample imagination. So people tend to sniff until an opportunity to be alone and to blow your nose presents itself.
In France, it’s the opposite. Blowing your nose in the middle of the class or in the bus is better than sniffing repeatedly. Again, I’ve heard French complaining when they see someone constantly sniffing.
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3. Daily makeup.
Most of the French women don’t wear full makeup. Just a lipgloss and sometimes with some mascara accessorized with “fantaisie” jewelry (mostly earrings). If you want to blend, reserve the makeup for the parties.
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I’ve observed that they don’t feel comfortable being seen with several shopping bags. When they go shopping, a lot would bring their own bags and would not take the paper bag. Aside from the fact that it’s not comfortable taking the metro with 3 or 5 paper bags, showing off your wealth is “mal vu” or considered vulgar in France. They are prouder of their finds from the bargain or 2nd hand stores.
5. Interrupting conversations
We know it’s not good to interrupt someone talking. In Philippines, we observe this in our professional life. However, when we are with friends or family, I’ve noticed many people start speaking without letting someone finish talking.
In France, whether you’re in a business meeting or just talking with your friends, don’t cut someone off or talk over the person during conversations. They will not hesitate to tell you “laisse moi finir”. If the person doesn’t seem to stop talking, be polite.
6. Writing digits
Do not use thousands separators and the point as a decimal separator. When you write ONE THOUSAND EUROS AND FIFTY CENTS, do not do it like this: 1,000.50€. It should be like this: 1 000, 50 € or like this 1.000,50€.
1. Bonjour, Bonsoir and Au revoir
When you enter a bakeshop, small boutiques, a restaurant, a clinic, an office, or even the pharmacy, never forget to say Bonjour or Bonsoir to the salespersons, to the receptionists or to the other people in the room. Except when you’re going inside a commercial center (a mall) where there are so many people, you’re not expected to greet everyone inside. But greeting the security agent at the entrance is still a good practice.
Don’t quit the place too without saying the parting words : au revoir, bonne journée, bon après-midi, bonne fin de journée, or other creative expressions you could find.
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Wherever you go, always equip yourself with this golden word. When the baker gives you your order, say thank you. When he or she gives you your change or receipt, say thank you. When he or she gives you a napkin, say thank you. When you leave, say thank you again and au revoir. And it’s not only in the bakeshop.
If you’re invited for dinner and someone serves you food or hand to you something, say thank you. Even if it’s your husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, or wife. No matter how simple the gest or favor is, always say thank you.
I often heard French people saying « Il/elle n’a même pas dit MERCI. » (He/She didn’t even say thank you. » Thank you is really a big deal that even kids would notice if you don’t say thank you.
3. When receiving presents
In the Philippines, we usually don’t open presents in front of the giver.
In France, it’s the opposite. You are expected to open it right in front of the person. Otherwise, the person would think that the present doesn’t please you. During birthday parties, the celebrator will open each gift and give a « bisous » to the giver.
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4. Be attentive and offer assistance
If you see someone in the bus or metro station having difficulty carrying his or her luggage, baby’s stroller, or whatever, always give assistance. When you are the one with the luggage, you can also ask someone to help you. When I had my large luggage, someone would always help when I took the stairs or when I got on the bus.
5. Door etiquette
Before you close a door, please check if there’s someone behind you. If there is, you have to hold the door, gate, or whatever for that person even if he/she is 5 meters away. You have to wait. Unless you’re late for an important appointment or job interview. Just don’t look back and show that you are in a super hurry. That person will understand.
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When you meet your French friends, they always have something to say about your dress, your accessories, or whatever. Just return the favor but remain genuine. This applies to guys too. You can tell them that their shirt is good, or their shoes etc.
If you’re invited for dinner, show genuine interest in the dishes and its preparation.
Add a space before two-part punctuation marks like ( ! ) or ( ?).
These are just some of the French etiquette I gathered. Please share what you have observed in the comments below and don’t forget to share! Take care everyone…