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Etiquette in France

  • On meeting, a handshake is a common form of greeting.
  • First names are reserved for family and close friends. Wait until invited before using someone’s first name. Titles Monsieur or Madame of is bestowed when entering a shop and when leaving.
  • It is polite to greet your neighbors with the same title.
  • Table manners, a few tips if you are invited for dinner: don’t come too early, don’t eat too much of the first course, try everything and avoid leaving food on your plate, speak lightly.
  • Do not try to mix professional life and private life, do not expect too much from meetings, if you want to convince people try to look smart (rather than efficient), don’t take it for granted that everybody should speak English, don’t be too informal.
  • France is a very hierarchical society. If you are unhappy in a shop or with a client or a supplier, do not waste time talking to someone who does not feel responsible.
  • The French are very proud of being French and their pride should generally not be mistaken for rudeness or arrogance. Much of the time the French simply feel sorry for you because you cannot a deep appreciation for their culture and language.Making visible efforts to try and ‘fit in’ with French culture makes the world of difference. Knowing, or at least trying to speak a few words in French makes the world of difference to their attitudes towards you.
  • A small tip (1 or 2 Euro) is considered polite for good service.

Do’s and Dont’s:


  • DON’T live (only) among expats: you have the opportunity to live in a foreign country. Do not transmit stereotypes about the French if you meet them only at work or in shops.
  • DON’T judge before making an effort to understand. There is always a reason to explain people’s behavior: first understand, and then criticize. For instance, don’t be shocked if somebody does not give you his name, it may be a matter of privacy.
  • DO speak French: try to read a French newspaper: you’ll improve your French and understand better the French if you don’t look at them through other people’s eyes.
  • DON’T deal only with people who deal ONLY with expats (doctors, lawyers, dentists, plumbers, cleaning ladies.): they probably charge “expat prices�?. A doctor who speaks English is not necessarily a better doctor.
  • DO learn more about other countries and try to speak foreign languages.
  • DON’T believe that the other countries  would be happier if it was like you in all aspects. France is unique in its own way and one must respect it for its differences.

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