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A First-Time visitor? French Etiquette. What does 'etiquette' mean? According to a dictionary, it is "a code of behaviour that delineates expectations for social behaviour according to contemporary conventional norms. Etiquette has changed and evolved over the years". Here you'll find tips on how to navigate the pitfalls and how not to offend th...

A First-Time visitor? French Etiquette. What does 'etiquette' mean? According to a dictionary, it is "a code of behaviour that delineates expectations for social behaviour according to contemporary conventional norms. Etiquette has changed and evolved over the years". Here you'll find tips on how to navigate the pitfalls and how not to offend the local people during your stay on the French Riviera or in Monaco.

  1. You can definitely dress casual when going to the beach. However remember to dress more or less smart when going out dining. Certain restaurants have their own dress codes.
  2. Always greet French cheerfully when you enter a shop, a restaurant or any other public place. Then say goodbye when you leave. Simple French greetings are “bonjour Monsieur/Madame/Mademoiselle”( until more or less 5.30pm) or “bonsoir Monsieur/Madame/Mademoiselle” if it is around and after 6pm, and “au revoir “Monsieur/Madame/Mademoiselle” or “merci “Monsieur/Madame/Mademoiselle” when you leave. Saying simple "merci or bonjour " would seem not enough.
  3. When addressing a stranger with a question in the street, it is a must to greet them first, and then ask your question. It is an important rule of French etiquette to always greet someone officially first before speaking to them. 

  4. When asking for something , for example, in a restaurant or hotel, it is important to say "please" in French "s'il vous  plaît Monsieur/Madame/Mademoiselle".
  5. Note that, when offered something (a fill-up of your wine glass, more bread, a minor treat), simply saying “Merci” indicates refusal, as in English “No, thank you”. This is quite different from British practice, where saying a simple “Thank you” implies acceptance, as in “Yes, thank you”. So, if you want your wine glass filled or more bread, don’t say “Merci”. Say “Oui, s’il vous plaît.”

  6. Don’t just assume everyone speaks English. If you don't speak French, ask politely if they speak English before continuing. This can be done in English or, better yet, in French. You can ask "Hello...Do you speak English?" by saying "Bonjour...Parlez-vous l'anglais s'il vous plaît?". If you find it helpful make sure you have a French phrases book with you at all time if you are not already fluent in French. 

  7. It is of importance to always use 'Monsieur/Madame/Mademoiselle' if you don't know someone, if you have just met them, or if they are someone important. 

  8. Always wait to be invited to use first names. Until then, use Monsieur/Madame/Mademoiselle and last name for example "Madame Figaro".
  9. When you are in a restaurant for example, don’t yell from across the room. Wait until you are close to start talking to a waiter. In France, yelling is for anger.Same for waving. It is through eye contact or a discreet nod of your head that you can call a waiter. You can also say "excuse me", in French "Excusez-moi, Monsieur/Madame/Mademoiselle".
  10. ‘La bise’ is how French who know each other greet each other. This is the name for the cheek-kissing you see everywhere. Generally, it’s two kisses. However, you'll notice that sometimes it is more than 2. It is when people are very good friends most of the time. ‘La bise’ is more of a brushing of cheeks with kissy noises than actual kisses. Often no facial contact is made at all. It may look like pretending to kiss someone. SO little or no skin contact. Generally you can start heading towards the left, or in other words, kiss right cheeks first.
  11. Curious but true -French people don't really hug. They are even a bit uncomfortable with hugs. There isn't even a French word for hug. 
  12. Here is some vocabulary that will allow you to demonstrate your politeness at all time: including the above politeness words and phrases , 'you’re welcome' in French 'Je vous en prie'; and more casual way of saying 'it was nothing', in French 'I’ll n’y a pas de quoi' or "de rien".
  13. Round-the-clock snacking is far less common in France than in the UK – as is eating or drinking in the street. French practices are loosening, but you’re still unlikely to draw admiring glances if you’re walking along at 4pm with pizza in one hand, a can of beer in the other.Technically it falls under rules of French etiquette as a 'what not to do'. Remember- French love their food and table manners. They eat at regular intervals during the day and enjoy it very much so. Even children have their "goûter" time at 4pm... 

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French Etiquette