Things you should not do in France

As a foreigner living in Bordeaux for the past four years, I discovered the hard way THINGS YOU SHOULD NOT DO WHEN YOU COME TO FRANCE.
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Saint Emilion

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It is time. You have booked your flight and hotel. You have all the basic travel information such as: how public transport works, how to get to and from the airport, and what locations we should visit. But travellers often overlook something as crucial as knowing how to behave in a certain country.  When I came to France I discovered that things were quite different here when it comes to social cues than in my home country. So to prepare you for your trip to France, I decided to gather 13 THINGS YOU SHOULD NOT DO WHEN YOU COME TO FRANCE.

For the French people, lunch, dinner, or apero (any type of activity that involves food and drinks really) is something sacred and special. People here love to indulge and they like to take their time savouring the food. So of course table etiquette has very high importance in French culture.

Don’t just sit anywhere

Restaurants and cafes in France are world famous for a reason, but there are rules and etiquette that are important. So, when you go to a cafe or a restaurant, especially if they are a higher-class establishment you should wait by the door to be seated by the host or hostess. Usually, you can very easily spot them and though you won’t find them in every little place it’s a good idea to take a look around for someone to seat you before taking just any table that seems good to you. Often here in France, they have special tables just for drinking a glass of wine or having a coffee and another one for meals.

Don’t wave at the waiters like crazy and be impatient

French people don’t like to rush in general. Having a meal here is always like going on a special date. You can’t just go through it. You have to take a glass of wine, talk with your interlocutors and enjoy your time. So, you see why it might take more than a minute for you to be served. It is very unpleasant and a sign of disrespect if you start waiving like crazy for your waiter here. Understand that they are busy and they will get to you in due time.

Don’t start eating before everyone had been served

Yes. This is something very common all around the world, but I feel like here it is considered to be a major faux pas so it is worth mentioning. Never start eating before everyone has their food in front of them. When you are in someone’s house you should usually wait for the host or hostess to give you a go-ahead with something like ‘Bon appetite. Otherwise, you might not get a second invitation.

Don’t be selfish

When you are at the table and want to top off your glass of wine or water, first offer to do that for the others. If not, you risk getting the stink eye from your friends as it is considered rude to take care only of yourself.

Avoid asking for your steak to be well done

I realize this is a personal choice and depends on your taste, but french chefs hate overcooking meat. When you ask for your meat to be well done it’s almost a sacrilege as this is ruining the steak in their eyes. You won’t be thrown out of the restaurant but you won’t be their favorite customer either. The same goes for saying you don’t like Foie gras by the way. I did it once, and the waiter almost fainted.

Don’t leave your phone on the table

When you are having a nice meal with a friend or simply a glass of wine, people here don’t like to leave their phones out on the table. 

Don’t come on time

Here, going to a friend’s house for a little soiree is a nice and beloved tradition. But of course, like most things in France it cant be as simple as showing up. You might think that it is a good idea to show up on time but think again. Here they have a little expression – quart d’heure de politesse. This means fifteen minutes of politeness, or in order not to impose and stress your host people here are usually between 10 and 15 minutes late. As someone that is maniacal about being on time, this was a hard one for me to understand but after the tenth time, I showed up to a party before everyone else and had to help the host make the table I learned my lesson.

Don’t come empty-handed to a house party

This again might be something you know from… like being alive. But, yes. In France showing up without something might make you the worst guest ever – officially. Even if the hostess told you not to bring anything you should at least come with a nice bottle of wine or a little dessert.

Don’t forget to kiss

Now, this is something that I learned the hard way for sure. I was at a party and when I came in, there were about 10 people around the table already. As a habit, I gave them a smile and wave and continued with my night. But a friend of mine later told me that it was very rude of me not to go and salute everyone individually with a kiss. I will admit that at the beginning of my life in France kissing strangers was super weird. But now it is just a force of habit. It might be a little tedious to go around and kiss ten people for hello and goodbye, but it’s better than to be considered rude and grumpy.

Don’t be too friendly too fast

As someone coming from eastern Europe, I’m used to people becoming best friends after a couple of drinks. But here it just doesn’t work like that. French people like their privacy and personal space. So, when you meet someone, even if in your country it is perfectly normal to start hugging them and talking about your crazy grandmother in the second hour of your meeting – don’t. Give them time to adjust to you. French people are not rude or cold, for them taking the time to know someone is just being respectful.

Don’t speak loudly

Here, you can always spot the foreigners by the noise level they have all around them. If you are on public transport and you hear loud voices it is almost 100 percent certain that those people are not French. Here you should be super aware of how loud you talk, listen to your music, and the noise you make in general. It simply is a sign of good taste.

No unsupervised children

 French people never let their children wreak havoc when they are in public. Of course, everyone will understand when a little child had decided to have a tantrum, but in general, they always find a way to calm them down. Children here are thought to be respectful from a very young age and it is not uncommon to see a parent disciplining a child in the best way possible. I have great admiration for the French when it comes to teaching children how to act and their efforts show.

No money talk

Here the subject of your paycheck or how much something costs is taboo. Forget about asking how much is someone’s salary. It is impolite and offensive.

Well, this is it from me. I hope that my point of view on THINGS YOU SHOULD NOT DO WHEN YOU COME TO FRANCE as a foreigner here helps.

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