Planning a trip to France and worried that the French will be rude? Use these simple tricks and your manners will surely impress even the Parisians!
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Worried about failing your
It's common knowledge that the French do not rush through their meals. If they're having a sit-down lunch or dinner, multiple courses are a must. And you might as well do the same - both because you'll be on vacation and because it's a massive part of your enjoyment of your time in this amazing country.
Restaurant Etiquette in France
- French patrons do not want to rush or be rushed, and thus the waitstaff do not hurry to attend to to a diner's every need. Since patrons stay much longer at restaurants and often sit for a long period, the waitstaff have far more tables to monitor.
- If you need something, catch the waiter's eye like you would in the U.S., but also indicate politely that they should come over. Mere eye contact often will not draw them to the table as it would in the U.S. They will assume it is incidental.
- If you are sitting in a cafe, or even at a bar, and your drink it empty, they will not rush over and ask if you want another. You generally need to ask to order another drink. If you do not, they think you want to just sit at the table and chill, which, to the French, is perfectly reasonable.
- The waiter will not bring the bill unless you specifically ask for it, but if it's a bar-type setting, they may leave a check on your table. They are not being rude - this is just how they remember whether you've paid. And, as we've discussed, they're not ignoring you - they think you want to be left alone. French waitstaff are paid a full wage, so they are not interested in "turning tables."
- At sit-down meals, even lunch, almost all French people will eat multiple courses. The waitstaff may react strangely if you eat just a main course and then leave. They'll ask if everything is OK, if you're sure you don't want more, etc.. If you are not interested in multiple courses, just smile and say yes everything is fine, but you're in a hurry - just so they know you aren't unhappy! This they understand.
- The French see not having coffee after a meal (read: espresso) the way Americans would view someone eating a $5 appetizer salad without dressing and leaving. Not wrong, just bizarre behavior of an oddball that they're going to gossip about with their coworkers after their shift.
Etiquette in France:
Metro rules in France
They always sit on the Metro if they can, even if they are only going a few stops - and you should do the same. While for me personally, it might be more comfortable to stand for maybe 3 stops, they always sit if there is room and give you funny looks if you don't sit.
The French always make it abundantly clear that they are getting off at the next stops. People will get up and stand near the door far, far, far in advance of their stop. This is part of the reason that they sit - to make room for this exit procedure. Be sure to leave room for people to do this.
Most importantly: get up early for your departure - don't push people out of the way at the last minute, as they won't be expecting this and you might not be able to escape.
Etiquette in France:
The French do not speak loudly and they will strongly resent if you do.
Etiquette in France:
Remember: you aren't at home
Enjoy the French food, drink their coffee, and don't forget to say "bonjour!" You'll be happy you did.
Thanks for stopping by!
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We've never found the French to be rude. I think it's more that the guests in their country come across abrasive, assumptive and rude and they react accordingly. As you say, a Bonjour and a smile goes a long way.
Completely agree - I'd probably be a bit rude, too, if people shouted at me in foreign languages they expected me to understand! I saw a woman basically scream at a coffee shop asking if they had "American coffee" and I backed away slowly, practicing my faux Canadian accent (but the man handled it very kindly) :-)
Bonjour ! (Yes, even in the posts!)
I’m french, parisien, and I found your post on Pinterest : I was so curious to read it... and I must say this is so true ! You have just described how we act in general.
The mAin problem you may encounter while in Paris is that most of the french people just can’t speak english (or nearly can’t) !
So Happy to read we are not rude actually !
Un grande merci a vous!! I can't wait until the next time I'm able to visit your lovely country! xx
We had a lovely time in France! Not one person was rude to us. The line in this article “pretend you’re in church” made me laugh, maybe that’s why everyone treated my husband and me so well, we were raised in church and know how to dress nicely, speak quietly, and greet people. 😉
Bonjour! Good to hear from a Parisian, i was always afraid to travel to this beautiful country, yet since I had heard that they are rude and other tourists’s opinion was the culprit. I am glad to read this blog and also the confirmation of a Parisian makes me more comfortable now. I speak somewhat French, yet I was afraid they will be disappointed in my French after I can pronounce so good but can’t speak it well enough and be rude to me.
I agree with everything you have written. All good tips.
I would add that in a restaurant, if you have your menu open (ready to indicate your choice) the waiter will not approach. You close your menu to let him/her know that you have decided, and then you can open it again when speaking to the waiter.
An excellent tip!! I completely agree - even in the U.S. that happens to me occasionally! Thanks for stopping by! xx
Thank you for your post! I am getting ready for my second trip to Paris with my daughters this time. I went as a college student 25 years ago and also found that by attempting even poor French I was able to receive smiles from the Parisians if for no other reason then pure amusement! I try to think of how I treat visitors that don’t speak English here!
Completely agree! Hope you have a wonderful trip!! Bon voyage! x
First--that navy blue scarf with the red top is lovely.
Secondly--It is so important to remember when traveling that you are a guest in someone's home, and act accordingly. I think people forget that. This was a very helpful post.
Thank you so much!! And I so agree - for whatever reason, I find that tourists increasingly expect countries to conform to them, rather than the other way around. No matter what happens, if we're all just generally nice and respectful, people are fairly accommodating :) xx
Hahaha! Great post. Was nervous about our trip to France in a few weeks, but it sounds like they are the same as Afrikaans people from small towns in South Africa... We do about 4/5 things on this list. We don't sit in the Gautrain unless all the elderly (anyone slightly older than you counts) and woman with children have been seated. If there are seats open we wil sit, but we get up ahead of stops and wait... Standing and it's not your stop - move away to make room for those who would like to get ready to depart. We also get offended if people don't greet us nicely because we feel we like we did something wrong to deserve it. Always ask random strangers how they are and do the dance up until I'm fine as well thanks, and then a great big smile and heartfelt goodbye and have a nice day when you go away. Well not random, waiters, tellers, gas station employees, car guards, people behind or in front of you in a line when waiting for a long period of time. Strike up a short conversation and have a laugh and there we go. The majority of South Africans are like this though... Don't think we will make it in America haaaahaha! Most encounters we have with Americans are strange... Believe it or not, ask Ripley, we have been asked many times if we live with roaming lions, and why some of us are white. There are no lions unless you are at certain nature reserves or national parks or the zoo... or maybe once in a blue moon on a farm bordering one of the mentioned parks where they are caught and taken back to the park they came from.
Back to the matter at hand, thanks for the great post! Loved it! Or shall I say Merci boucoup et bonne nuite, madamoiselle. (Yes, bedtime over here).
Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment! So glad you enjoyed the article - and enjoy your trip! xx
I found all of this to be very true. I visited Paris as a child, and I remember the people being very kind. One couple even invited my parents and I into their home. They were so hospitable and warm.
We did have one or two not-ideal experiences, but you get that in any large city. I think many Americans who think the French are rude don't consider that they may in fact be the ones who are rude.
Thanks so much for stopping by! I completely agree - hopefully I can convince a few people to change haha fingers crossed!! xx
This is good information. We were polite to everyone using my extremely limited French. The only person who was rude was a Metro attendant, and it appeared she hated everyone, not Americans specifically. 😀
hahah fair enough!! Glad you had a good experience! xx
Very helpful article. Im wondering if it's polite to say Bonjour when leaving a boutique or cafe if near/ making eye contact? ......or is that unnecessary. I'll be in Paris soon!
Hi Kathy - thanks for stopping by! If you're leaving somewhere, like a shop, I would say "au revoir" (which means goodbye). They're more so into saying "bonjour" when coming in and out of places where you're going to eat/drink/shop/stay/work/explore, as opposed to just if you are close to someone, or someone in close proximity to you. I live in the Midwestern US and we say hi to everyone, for example if we're sat really close to another couple at a table in a restaurant - this is definitely not the case in Paris. Just when you're going into a shop with the employees. Have a great trip!!
nice ideas - as a foreigner living in paris - i would say that you should add that french often are seen as rude simply as they do not speak english well. i always warn people when they are visiting to be very aware that the french have the lowest english proficiency in europe - thus, if you ask for help or expect people to just understand you, they will often be ashamed by their level of english. speaking english says a lot about your social class here (ie. what school you attended, how much you have traveled, if you work for an international company, etc). it is simply embarrassing to them if they cannot speak or understand you and will prefer to ignore you as then they will not have to display their lack of english. i find that once visitors are aware of this, they have a new perspective and enjoy themselves much, much more.
Christina - Thank you so much for this thoughtful comment and input! I'm going to work it into the post! :) xx
Two of my friends and I are planning a trip to Paris and I’m a little worried about us. We always have fun. We laugh a lot and we laugh hard. Will that come off as rude?
Hi Jennifer - thank you for your comment :) It made my day! I wouldn't be too self-conscious, but I would make an effort to tone it down just a bit, at least at indoor restaurants, as I would suspect people might stare at a large amount of laughter in a relatively quiet place. They just aren't as boisterous :) haha or try to sit outside, if you can! You should have nice weather!
Congrats on your upcoming trip - I hope you all have a marvelous time!
Thanks for the advice! I’ll make sure we tone it down. ;)
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