5 Things to make you a savvy traveler before going to France
France is one of the top destinations for travelers and it’s easy to see why it’s at the top of any traveler’s wish list. It’s beautiful lavender fields, starlets floating down the promenade to movie premiers in Cannes, and who can forget its gorgeous wines. Some of the world’s most renowned artists have found France to be their sanctuary. The French are known for their impeccable taste and it’s alluring culture. But they are also misunderstood for their pretentious behavior. They’re proud people with a long history. Tourists have found it difficult sometimes to avoid smug comments from locals but we will share ways to make your french adventure ‘C’est simple comme bonjour !’ (easy peasy!)
Impeccable manners are essential
Maybe impeccable is a bit of stretch but your best attempt at good manners is important to avoid those awkward interactions. Being proud is part of the french way. Dignity and pride are celebrated in France. It’s important to note when you visit any country, you should do your best to learn the basic pleasantries. It’s respect for the country you are visiting. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes because the locals will respect the fact that you are trying. Here are a few phrases to help get you started:
- When you first greet someone, you would say “Bonjour!” which means hello. In the evening you say “Bon Soir!” This works in any situation and is formal. If you need to say excuse me to ask a question you would say ‘Bonjour, excusez-moi.’
- When you first address someone in conversation always say Monsieur/Madame/Mademoiselle and then their last name. It’s the equivalent of saying Mr. or Ms. Smith. You don’t use their first name unless they permit you to.
- You don’t shout in France. Use your inside voice and always address everyone with monsieur or mademoiselle including the wait staff.
- Universal manners apply. Thank you is ‘Merci’ and please is ‘s’il vous plait’. Learn these basic phrases and you will avoid any sticky situations.
The above is an etiquette guide but to get by in France you should have a good command of basic french.
Learning French can be fun!
We know, learning a new language can be daunting especially when your busy planning the perfect trip but French is fun and quite seductive. Most countries will be tolerant of tourists not knowing their native language but not in France. They want you to at least attempt it. Did you know that French was once the dominant language? It coined the term ‘lingua franca’ meaning a common language between speakers whose native languages are different.
You know the basics from our etiquette section but to manage the French landscape you should get yourself a pocket-size phrasebook. You will use it many times and the locals will appreciate the fact that you are trying.
Fashion matters so dress to impress
France is after all home to the swank Coco Chanel and the trendsetting Marie Antoinette. You don’t need to walk the streets of Paris like you’re on a runway but the usual dress is business casual. You could easily pull off for men and women; slacks, loafers, button-down shirt, with a cardy thrown over the shoulder casually. Avoid the pickpockets and conmen by blending into the french scene. As for beachwear, well the french are not so modest. You can expect to see speedos on the men and the women wear bikinis with most of them going topless. The young children are usually are nude. This is pretty routine on the beaches so don’t be surprised. Although if you leave the beachfront you are expected to cover up with a t-shirt and shorts. If a woman leaves their towel area they cover-up.
To kiss or not to kiss
We know about the two cheek kiss right? But can you do it the proper french way? Well, it’s called the ‘la bise’. The way to artfully execute this is by lightly touching the upper arm of the other person and touch your cheek to theirs while making the sound of a kiss. Not actually kissing at all. Some kiss three or four times on either side. The French don’t do hugs so if you’re unsure about what way to greet someone just avoid it altogether.
Did you know? You can not kiss on train platforms! It’s to avoid late departures. So save your kissing!
The French are fiercely faithful to their own culinary
They love their food and they take dining seriously. So if you have a diet restriction then you’ll have a bit of a challenge when ordering. You’ll just get blank stares if you ask for Gluten-tolerant meals, Paleo/Keto diet options, and vegetarians will get fish. These diets are not common in France so don’t be offended if your request gets overlooked. This is usually the case in smaller towns. In the larger cities, restaurants tend to be more progressive in their food choices. Don’t let that challenge fool you though, french food melts on the palette. Tip: When you aren’t sure what to make of the menu, go for the fixed price (‘Prix Fixe’ ‘) meal. Its usually displayed on the blackboard and is part of their daily specials.
These are just a few small tips that will help you get by when you are on your French adventure. When traveling to any country it’s so important to immerse yourself in their culture to get the full experience of traveling. It’s important to attempt their language, be respectful and try some of their local cuisines. You might surprise yourself and find that you are cooking those same meals when you get back home. Travel expands the mind. It reminds us how big and beautiful the world is. It’s no surprise France makes everyone’s bucket list. Come with us to France and experience its unique qualities and beauty.