Whether you are paying a brief visit to France for business or recreational purposes or you are moving to this fascinating country to embark on the next stage of your career, it is important to appreciate the often highly formal nature of the national etiquette if you are to avoid embarrassment. Indeed, even the very word ‘etiquette’ is French in origin.
So, here are a few of the most distinctly French customs and manners that you should bear in mind, as outlined by a seasoned authority on the subject – the team at the enchanting and luxurious private venue, Château Bouffémont in France.
It is typical for the French to shake hands almost anytime they meet, but especially when they are meeting someone for the first time or on business. In some workplaces, colleagues may even greet each other with a handshake when they arrive at work in the morning, and again before departing at the end of the day. The Expatica site has some further useful guidance on French business etiquette.
When speaking to anyone, whether in a formal or informal setting, it is practically an unwritten law to begin by saying “bonjour monsieur/madame”, or “bonsoir” in the evening.
If you are being introduced to someone, you should accompany the obligatory “bonjour” with a handshake or, once you become more familiar with them, a mutual exchange of la bise, which is the practice of kissing on alternate cheeks. Whether you repeat this motion once, twice or even more frequently depends on the region, so we would advise you to take your lead from the other person.
As also described by The Telegraph in its expat guides, you must make an appointment if you are to hold a business meeting in France, as should be done no later than two weeks in advance. Telephone, writing and email are all acceptable means of requesting an appointment, although depending on the seniority of the person you are meeting, it may be a secretary who handles appointments.
While it is typical to bring a small gift when invited to someone’s home, you should be careful to avoid white lilies or chrysanthemums, given their association with funerals, where they are traditionally placed on the graves of loved ones at the cemetery. Red carnations are also a no-no, as these symbolise bad will. Such attitudes to certain flowers are largely observed by the older rather than younger French.
The French are not fans of unnecessary noise in the cinema, often loudly shushing someone who talks – even if they are merely whispering – once a film has started. Crunching on popcorn or crisps is an even more heinous offence. More generally, time limits are also imposed for noise in various locales across the country, although an exception to this is the shortest night of the year, the summer solstice, which sees the Fête de la Musique – or ‘Music Day’ – celebrated nationwide.Follow the above French etiquette rules, and you will already be well on your way to immersing yourself appropriately in the captivating culture of this unspeakably romantic country. France has everything from the most fashionable people to the world renown french interior design in the utmost style, why not even choose France as the place to hold your next grand celebration?