Culture and customs in France

All countries have peculiar social customs and France isn’t any exception.

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Like a foreigner you will probably be excused should you accidentally insult your hosts, but it is better to be familiar with accepted taboos and courtesies, especially because the French tend to be more formal than most foreigners (especially Americans and Britons) imagine.

When you are introduced to a French person, you need to say good day, Sir/Madam’ (bonjour madame/ monsieur) and shake hands (just one pump is sufficient – neither limp nor knuckle-crushing). Salut (hi or hello) can be used only among good friends and young adults. When saying goodbye, it is a formal custom to shake hands again. Within an office, everyone shakes hands with everybody else on arrival at the office and when they depart.

The more you find out about French traditions and culture, the greater you will want to learn. France includes a long and varied history and countless legends and customs happen to be passed from one generation to another. In addition, each region of France is very unique and proudly boasts its version of French culture. Researching these cultural traditions is really a richly rewarding endeavour.

It will come as no real surprise that inside a country so reputed because of its gastronomical know-how that many traditions and customs in France focus on food. If you’re planning a trip to France, or simply making a visit, it’s really worthwhile learning about the different foods and recipes – experiment with local delicacies such as snails for example – delicious!

In France they literally behead champagne bottles at weddings. An exclusively made sabre can be used to behead the bottle. This tradition has been said to have generated during Napoleonic instances when champagne bottles were beheaded to celebrate victory. Holidays, which begins with Christmas, sees many old customs and traditions in France being followed.  Members of the family and friends participate in the late Christmas Dinner usually held on Christmas Eve following the holy Christmas Mass. Roast turkey is easily the most common item about the menu. Church bells don’t ring on Thursday before the Good Friday. The bells ring again on Easter Sunday.

France is recognized for its culture. There are lots of gems and jewels scattered in French literature which have found their place even just in world literature.

The French are justifiably proud of their culture.  With few exceptions, the French tend to welcome foreigners to their country.  Any attempt to speak French will be greatly appreciated, even if not always understood!  Don’t worry about making mistakes: just the fact you are trying to speak their language will go down well.  The most important thing to know is that French is a language with formalities and using the wrong “you” form could possibly offend someone. If they are older than you/ your professor or you do not know them- use “vous”. If they are a child or your classmate,  use “tu”.  In days gone by the “vous” form was almost constantly used even amongst families, in particular the upper classes which may seem strange to us now.  The 2 different forms for you exist in other European countries also, so it would seem it is only us Brits who need to learn the difference!

French culture and customs go back so many hundreds of years and even in today’s modern world, there is a strong legacy of the family coming first.  Families tend to stick together and generations mix easily.  This is probably one of the main reasons why we love France – not to mention of course the wonderful food and wine!


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