Ten Surprising French Customs to Know Before You Visit

General customs

  1. The very first thing you need to know is that in France, double kissing is normal. Greeting someone with kisses is a standard, and these are more a very light brushing of the cheeks. Don’t feel the need to do a big, wet, sloppy smack. Take the cue from the native French person if you aren’t sure.
  2. If you are from a country where people like their personal space, prepare to get uncomfortable. Often times French people will stand very close to you while they are talking, so don’t be offended or threatened. If you do, you can step back slightly.
  3. Clothes matter. Most people in France don’t dress up, even for the office. Though their clothes may be casual, they are still stylish and high quality. You will be judged by what you wear, so putting in slightly more effort will earn the admiration of the locals.
  4. Time moves differently in France. This means that showing up early or on time is actually rude. The person hosting you will probably still be putting on makeup or setting their table if you were invited to their home. Especially for informal social occasions, early arrivals are not welcomed. So if in doubt, arrive later.
  5. In the provinces, people take siestas during the afternoon. This is just another example of the pace of life being more relaxed in France. Don’t expect to get anything done in a hurry. In fact, you can take a siesta too.

Food customs

  1. In France, drinks being served at room temperature is the norm. Asking for ice in a restaurant will make the waiter confused, though they will probably still accommodate you. This applies to things like juice or milk, which many are used to seeing being served cold.
  1. There’s no such thing as kids’ food or kids’ menus. French children are more sophisticated than those in other countries. They start to develop their taste for good food young. This means that it’s normal to see them eating croissants, Roquette salad and other popular French dishes.
  2. Drinking to excess is frowned upon. While there is plenty of good wine to enjoy, don’t get drunk or you will be an outcast socially. French people like to have just enough so that they can have a lively conversation, not pass out unconscious.
  3. Don’t ever give your host wine as a gift! It can cause offence, as most likely they will already have picked out a bottle that goes with the food they are serving. This gesture effectively says that you don’t think they can serve good wine on their own. If you make this faux pas, expect your host to put the wine aside to (maybe) drink at another time.
  4. There’s a whole holiday for one type of wine. For a culture that emphasizes good food and wine, this probably isn’t a surprise. On the third Thursday in November it’s time to celebrate the beginning of the sale of the Beaujolais nouveau wine.