So you’re planning on taking that trip to the city of love or perhaps to the Mediterranean paradise along the south coast or maybe like me, you are just obsessed Carbenet Sauvignon, croissants and the beauty of the French language. Whatever it is that you’re in search for in France, be it to satisfy your palette with a world renowned cuisine or simply a trip to Disneyland, you will not be disappointed by the vast selection of wines, berets and baguettes. Sounds great doesn’t it? Well you’re still missing out on the most precious ingredient to making the most out of your trip to France: The people! No seriously, treat the French people well and they will take your trip from great, to unforgettable!
There are many misconceptions around French culture, that they’re rude and unhelpful, un-welcoming and have no sense of humour. Honestly, if you’ve heard these things; forget it, start fresh.
Never start a conversation without exchanging pleasantries
Manners. They cost nothing! And the French locals will not be afraid to express that if they feel you are rude. No, they will not give you a hard time but they will simply walk away from you in a huff. Never begin your conversation like “Do you speak English?!” if they do they’ll pretend they do not and will walk away, because it’s rude. Exchange pleasantries prior and at least swap “hello” for “bonjour”. It’s honestly incredible just how far a “bonjour” actually goes in France. They’ll genuinely believe you’re the height of sophistication for simply being considerate of their local culture/language.
Learn these few phrases
Learn these phrases and you will charm the French immediately, they are extremely proud of their language and they love nothing more than foreign visitors really immersing themselves within it. Even if it is at the most basic level. As a minimal effort, learn these phrases and not only will the French love and praise your efforts but it will make your life a whole lot easier when trying to get what you want, or where you need to be.
Excusez-moi – Excuse me. Use it the exact same way as you would “excuse me” in English. Simple as that.
Je voudrais – This means, “I would like”. This always comes handy in shops and restaurants as options on the menu will be written in French. Chances are you will get what you want a whole lot faster as you are able to immediately break down that language barrier.
Je vais – This means “I go”. If you’re jumping in a taxi or need to exchange words at the customer service desk at a train station. Use “je vais”. Again, not only will you get what you need faster but you will sound better too.
Merci – Thank you.
S’il vous plait – Please.
Nice and simple! If you’re wanting to take things to the next level, then get yourself on Duo Lingo, it’s fun and extremely easy to follow. I must admit you will learn a few wacky phrases such as “Les chats mangent les oranges” meaning “The cats are eating the oranges”. But it’ll get you where you need to be and much further. It really is a great tool and completely free to use/download from both the Android and Apple Store. If cats eating oranges isn’t your thing, take a look a Babbel. Babbel offers a paid service of which you can choose to learn from a wide selection of languages at your own pace for between £4.75 – £9.99 depending on your payment plan.
Other French-isms you must know!
Understand these French-isms prior to going then all you need is a beret on your head and a baguette in your hand, well done; You’re basically French.
As Brits as with many other cultures. We love to queue, at the shops, bus stops, restaurants, bars everywhere we go, we cue – it’s simply what we do and we do it well, especially compared to the French. Accept that queues are much fewer and further between – especially with public transport and don’t get too upset when someone slides in front of you, just return the favour.
Use the force. Yes as in like the Jedi people. Traffic in Paris is crazy to put it politely. Don’t expect oncoming traffic to stop because the green man has come on while you’re politely waiting at the side of the road. Just be careful, have your wits about you and you’ll be fine!
Tipping in France is not just the done thing, theres no unwritten code stating that you should tip 20% of the final bill. French people only tip after receiving exceptional service. So don’t feel obliged. However with that being said I’m sure you will receive some of the best service you’ve ever had during your stay in France, so do not be afraid to leave a small tip with a side of “merci” (meaning thank you) to really make someones day.
Enjoy your trip!
France is our favourite country in Europe with Paris being our most beloved city. Follow the steps above and your time in France will not only be enriched with love from the French locals but your time interacting with them will be a whole lot easier. Enjoy your trip! I can assure you that you will be devastated to come home.
Bon Voyage !