French Etiquette

France is a lovely country, there are specifics to French etiquette and customs that one should know before traveling there. For a vacation, it’s not wholly essential to understand all the nuances of customs and etiquette; however, any effort is greatly appreciated by the French people. In Business, practicing good, practical etiquette is very important.

Hearth and Home

Extended family is something the French value. Every person in a household has specific responsibilities they’re expected to know and follow through on including financial support. Relationships are both pragmatic and romantic, typically resulting in very few children and very active parenting. Be aware, however, that the persona you see in public is likely different in private. The French conduct themselves politely but also with restraint among people they don’t know or people in different social standings. As a result, building friendships takes time. Once established, true friends are expected to be a part of one’s daily life.

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As in the United States, shaking hands is a perfectly acceptable part of French etiquette. Individuals with relationships may greet each other with a kiss on each cheek. They will not use first names except when among friends and family, and will offer that name when they feel a relationship reaches an acceptable level for further familiarity.

If invited into someone’s home, bringing a small gift is commonplace. Avoid red carnations and white flowers, both of which have negative connotations. Wine is a highly acceptable gift, but it should be of good quality. Dress nicely and, by all means, be prompt.

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At the Table

Many of the customs and etiquette for good table manners in the U.S. translate well in the French culture. There are some things to be mindful of for French table manners Take the seat offered to you by the hostess, and don’t dig in until she says, “bon appétit”. Keep your elbows off the table, and finish the food you take completely. Simply put your knife on the plate, crossed on top by the fork to signal that you’re done.

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French Etiquette in Business

Business dealings in France have a formal feel where courtesy is highly valued. Like many other parts of the world, the French value good business relationships that can have lasting benefit. They work hard at creating trustworthy networks, and do not extend trust without good cause.

Definitely, learn at least a few French phrases. Your interest and effort in their culture goes a long way in business settings. Dress conservatively in soft or neutral colors. Offer your business card when the meeting begins, if possible one that’s been translated into French (again a subtle touch that will be noticed).

Be prepared for very direct questions and a no-nonsense approach to whatever topic is on the table, and answer them while maintaining eye contact. Avoid exaggeration or high-pressure presentation methods, and keep your discussion strictly business-oriented. Note that no decision will be made at this meeting. That will come later


French etiquette, as you can see, isn’t that different than practical etiquette in the United States – it focuses on mindfulness, politeness, and respecting the culture around you.

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