French 101

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Understanding French Culture

French Customs and Etiquette

pattern of human activity and symbolism associated with France and its people

Pattern of human activity and symbolism associated with France and its people.

Understanding the customs and etiquette of a country is crucial when learning a new language. It not only helps you communicate effectively but also shows respect for the culture. This article will provide an overview of French customs and etiquette, covering social and business etiquette, lifestyle, and core values.

French Social Etiquette


In France, greetings are often accompanied by a kiss on both cheeks, starting from the right. However, this can vary depending on the region and the relationship between the people. A handshake is common in formal situations or when meeting for the first time. It's also important to say "Bonjour" (Good day) or "Bonsoir" (Good evening) when entering shops, restaurants, or when addressing someone.

Dining Manners

French dining etiquette is formal. It's customary to keep your hands on the table (but not your elbows), and use utensils for most foods. Bread is usually placed directly on the table, not on a plate. When you're finished eating, place your knife and fork side by side on the plate.


If you're invited to someone's home, it's customary to bring a gift such as flowers, wine, or chocolates. However, avoid giving chrysanthemums as they are associated with funerals.

French Business Etiquette

Dress Code

In business settings, the French typically dress formally and conservatively. Dark suits and ties are the norm for men, while women often wear suits or elegant dresses.


While social events may have a more relaxed view of punctuality, business meetings require strict adherence to the scheduled time. It's considered respectful to arrive on time or a few minutes early.

Business Meetings

Meetings often start with some small talk. Business cards are exchanged at the beginning of the meeting, and it's polite to examine the card before putting it away. Decisions are often made at the highest level, so patience is key in negotiations.

French Lifestyle

The French lifestyle places a high value on enjoying the good things in life, such as food, wine, fashion, and leisure activities. Meals are often long, leisurely affairs with multiple courses. Wine is a staple at meals. Fashion is important in France, especially in Paris, which is considered the fashion capital of the world.

Understanding French Values

The French motto "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" reflects the country's values. Liberty refers to individual freedom and rights. Equality means that everyone should have the same rights and opportunities. Fraternity promotes a sense of community and social solidarity. Secularism is also a key value in France, with a clear separation between the state and religion.

By understanding and respecting French customs and etiquette, you can communicate more effectively in French and deepen your appreciation of the culture.