Social Etiquette - Top Tips!

Morning all,

I am putting together another feature and this one is all about social etiquette in France. I know there are huge regional variations and Covid has made kissing complicated…but, in no particular order:

What have you found strange / different / interesting?

What really surprised you?

What are your top tips for new arrivals?

All thoughts / input welcome. Thanks!


My first thought was that oral sex just means talking about it now :mask::rofl:
I get more exercise by walking from the car to the shop/supermarket then walking back to the car to get a bloody :mask:
No more bises which is a good thing, but not seeing, talking face to face, socially isolating let alone distancing is very trying mentally. And for newcomers especially, the difficulties in travelling between countries (to see family) will probably be hard to bear.
And despite the vaccine rollout, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight, cases on the rise almost everywhere in Europe


Always say Bonjour and Bonjournee.
Don’t expect things to be the same as in UK, you are in France!


I was a little taken aback when we first moved to our holiday home in Sancerre years ago when being kissed in a queue in the post office - but then I started to quire like it​:slightly_smiling_face:. However, the people in the queue at Sainsbury’s back home did not appreciate my efforts to introduce the custom so I had to stop for fear of being arrested :joy:


Just to start with, it is easier to say what not to do, so not taking wine if invited to a meal, not giving chrysanthemums as a gift.

Then I definitely echo Jane’s post about Bonjour and Bonne journee, the bonjour often being followed by monsieur or madame and ALWAYS said to the shopkeeper or person on the till when entering a shop.

When is it ever right to use Mademoiselle as a form of addess?

Will think about others…

Don’t dawdle down the street with a grin on your face, people will treat you with suspicion or think you are half-witted if they are charitable.

Don’t expect lunch if it isn’t lunchtime.

Don’t expect the customer to be considered right.


Similar to Vero, don’t visibly snack between meals. It’s just not done.

Also don’t eat lunch at your desk. At least, not unless others do. You will have concerned colleagues who think you are some kind of uncivilised heathen.

Try to get used to being called “Tu” as soon as you arrive in a modern firm. I still like “Vous” at least until I know someone. But working in French firms seems to go this way now.

As @Jane_Williamson says, 3 tips: Bonjour, Bonjour, and Bonjour

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Yes Vero, the customer definitely isn’t always right in France. It seems to me most salaried personnel don’t give a toss about customer satisfaction.


Which suggests that there isn’t any sanction for failing to provide good customer service. Which probably isn’t healthy.


pffff! try sacking me! :rofl:

I think it takes a lot to get yourself sacked.

OK, you’re sacked :laughing:

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you can send the severance pay in the post, I’m off! :slightly_smiling_face:

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Severence pay, don’t think so, I’m working to the US model :rofl:

is that the American English spelling?

No it’s the “typing too quickly” spelling. Although with the advent of spelling correction in browsers and word processors I find my (already none too brilliant) spelling has deteriorated.

Going back to the point at hand in a more serious vein. If I experience poor service I just go somewhere else. It’s in the service provider’s interest, therefore, to give good service and retain customers and, actually, everyone wins.

If poor service is routine and tolerated it suggests that there is too little scope for customers to go elsewhere (as well as employees being too hard to get rid of if they are serial offenders).

I know that there is an element of “France is not the UK or US” here but perhaps the highly regulated world of French small companies and artisans does not always lead to the high quality customer experience which is supposed to result.

I take your point but as @JaneJones mentioned in another thread, if you stand your ground, smile sweetly and show insistence then you can generally get good service from even the most “dragonistic” of servers… The “English & American” problem is that they tend to rant, jump up and down and shout loudly which only serves to encourage the server into the belief they had the moral high ground…


People mentioned bises.
Often because I’m British, French people hesitate and say ‘oh you English hate the bises don’t you?’ I’m mildly autistic (yes diagnosed) but I’ve always found bises a very nice way of connecting with people and I quickly got used to it. I think French social customs are great, saying bon appetite before meals, similar to Italy, where we said bueno appetito. Sharing home grown vegetables in the village, etc. By the way, the French think we don’t say bon appetite because our food isn’t nice enough.

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Yes, I should point out that I’ve generally experienced good service in France with only one or two exceptions and I certainly go for “polite and measured” before “shouty and ranty” and find the former is usually all you need.

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