A Brit in France -I have travelled to France for most of my life and would like to share with you little french peculiarities. I hope this will make your stay in France more enjoyable and less confusing!
Bonjour: You MUST say Bonjour all the time. Do you want to be served in a shop? Prefix any request with Bonjour. The french consider it the height of rudeness not to say this at the start of any verbal communication.
If you do not say Bonjour, you are merely confirming their opinion that we are uncouth and will be greeted with at worst a stony silence and at best sneering condescension . Remember to say it and social etiquette is working well and they are happy!
Lunchtime: The french lunchtime is sacred. Everyone is A table on the dot at ‘midi’, 12pm and return to work at 2pm on the dot. French life is very regimented and they do not like doing anything outside the social norm of the country. Once you understand this aspect of french life it is much easier to enjoy life in France.
Eating at other times: Well, you can’t! It is impossible to eat at times other than the regimented 12 – 2pm and 7 -10pm. Obviously, in Paris or other large cities this isn’t such a problem but in any rural area beware!
Shopping – Again, everything is closed for lunch! Shops stay open in large cities but everywhere else everything stops for lunch. The exception being large Supermarkets. Shops also close on a Sunday and rural areas have a half day closing as well.
Drinking: It is regarded as shocking if women drink more than a small glass of wine. Our drinking culture doesn’t exist here and so if you are invited to a french persons house, don’t get drunk!
The French Don’t like me! Every single friend who is not French says this to me. Every one! Americans and English people reserve top spot in this chart! They don’t like other nationalities much either. So, please do not take it personally! You have done nothing wrong, they dislike all of us. I know this is a huge generalisation and there are many delightful french people.
Learning french: Well, I really wouldn’t bother. But, if you do decide to embark on this endeavour please do not get offended when they correct your grammar. I used to think this was the height of rudeness, but they are just trying to be helpful. This still happens to me all the time, if I use the wrong tense or verb in conversation!
Dress: In France people love to dress for the occasion, something that I find quite endearing. Off for a bike ride? well, be prepared to don full regalia and look like a competitor in the Tour de France. This is de rigeur, I have never seen anyone cycling without the correct outfit! The same goes for any activity, correct dress is essential.
Things you will love about the French and things we can learn from them:
Style: There is absolutely no doubt that the French are a stylish people. They dress well, take pride in their appearance and look after themselves. They stay in great shape for the whole of their lives and look great.
Exercise: They put the rest of the world to shame with their wonderful exercise habits and they are very sportive. This starts in school with Wednesday set aside for sport in the afternoon. Rarely will you see a french person lying comatose on a sunbed, they will be playing beach volleyball, walking, running or some other energetic activity.
Ageism: This is the thing I love most about the french. Ageism does not exist. Women are found to be desirable and attractive at any age. Ageism at work does not exist (admittedly this might be because they have all retired at such an early age!)
Work Life Balance: The french believe that you work to live rather than live to work. Who can argue with that? The people live to a ripe old age, having worked only a 35 hour week during their working lives and retired at a young age.
Medical care: French people have a terrific health care system. You can be sent to a spa for a health cure paid for by the State, see your Doctor at your convenience and get treated swiftly with wonderful care. So many other wonderful things. Other countries should take note!
Well, it might appear that I have been hyper critical but there is so much to love. The wonderful cuisine, fresh food, beautiful country, culture I could go on and on. Do visit and have a wonderful time! Let me know if you have any peculiarities that I should add on here!