Every country has its own peculiarities of etiquette and France is no different. Sometimes the French can seem a little bit aloof and even quite formal so here’s how to make sure you get on the right side of your French neighbours and friends from the get-go!
Kissing in France
One of the rules that confuses just about everyone is kissing! Do you or don’t you kiss someone when you meet them? How many times do you kiss them? The basic etiquette rules in France for kissing are – if you’re meeting someone for the first time, shake their hands, don’t lunge at them and try to kiss them on the cheek, they will think you’re very odd! Cheek-kissing comes later and only ladies to start, cheek-kissing between men is strictly for relatives and very good friends! This being France, sometimes people do kiss you when you meet them for the first time so the advice is general, and follow the lead of your French friend, if they go to kiss you, just go with the flow!
But… never hug a French person!
Dining Etiquette in France
On the whole, the French tend to snack less and have longer, more rounded meals for lunch and dinner. Some people will tell you the French never snack – it isn’t so, of course they do, it’s just less common generally.
When you’re in a restaurant or dining with your French friends and you’re offered more of something from bread to wine, if you want more say “Oui, sil vous plait” (yes please). If you don’t want more say “merci”. Whilst in other countries saying thank you if offered more indicates a yes, in France it indicates no. You don’t need to say “Non, merci”, just plain old “merci”, but it is okay to say “non merci” if you want to be absolutely certain you don’t want any more snails.
If you say “merci” because you’re full up, don’t tell anyone “Je suis pleine/plein” – the French word for full. You’ll be telling everyone you’re pregnant, what’s more it is an expression only used for pregnant animals. We’d like to think that certain haughty French waiters would be amused by this faux pas, but they probably aren’t. The correct expression to use when you are full is Je n’ai plus faim – I’m no longer hungry Je suis rassasié(e) – I am satisfied or J’en ai eu assez – I’ve had enough (though some people apparently feel this can be taken to be a little bit cheeky).
One more thing – remember that French law requires that you always have personal ID about your person, so keep your passport on you to avoid a contretemps with the Police where a whole new set of etiquette rules might be required!
See Tipping in France for more etiquette rules.
Read French Etiquette Tips to learn more about the French way of life