Wherever you go in the world, it’s important to know about the local customs and etiquette to make sure you make a good impression. The best ambassadors for the country will learn how to behave appropriately and what they should and shouldn’t say. France is unlike many of its European cousins in terms of the behavior expected, and there are often certain ways of doing things that you might not be acquainted with. Familiarize yourself with some of the top French etiquette rules to ensure your holiday goes with a breeze.
There is a distinct difference in attitude between French people from the north and south about eating. If you are invited to a Parisian dinner party, send flowers on the morning of the event, and expect to dress to impress the chic, fashion-savvy crowd. If you’re invited to join a family in their villa in the south of France, expect a far more casual, Mediterranean affair. The French are relatively punctual, so if you expect to be late, be sure to inform your hosts.
If you want to give someone flowers, make sure it’s an even number of stems, but not 13, which is considered unlucky. Older French people observe certain conventions and avoid including particular blooms in their gift bouquets. White lilies and chrysanthemums are reserved for funeral flowers, and red carnations are said to represent bad will, so steer clear of these and opt for neutral flowers. Gifts of wine should be of the highest quality you can afford, so no bargain basement bottles of plonk.
Meeting and greeting
In French, there are two forms of the word ‘you’: ‘tu’ and ‘vous’. ‘Vous’ is the second person plural or the respectful singular version, and should always be used until you are very close to someone. If you’re speaking to family or good friends, use ‘tu’. It is common for French people of both genders to kiss on both cheeks when they greet one another, but a firm handshake should be used in a business situation.
Don’t be overly friendly in a business situation. Be polite but formal, and make sure you dress very smartly as the French see this as a sign of respect for the meeting. Also, be prepared for business meetings to last much longer than you’re used to. Every aspect of your proposal will be scrutinized no matter how long it takes, so don’t feel inclined to hurry the other person into a decision.
Carly Di Marco regularly spends her Summers in the beautiful countryside of southern France and blogs about the nuances in French life, customs and traditions