It’s already August 2020! I’m not only shocked because of how fast (yet how excruciating slow) this year has been but also because this month marks my 4 year anniversary in France. Yes, I’ve been in this beautiful country for 4 years now. And well, I can say that there are definitely a few things Parisian about me – especially when it comes to arguing with some imbecile on the metro or making an irritated face at the tourists. (J.K.) The time spent here has been beautiful and enriching in one too many ways for my career as well as my life. What can I say, such is French culture.
Speaking of- I decided to write this blog curated from my experiences here with 10 interesting facts about French culture. Now, you may have read some similar or contradictory things at different articles on the internet but these are all purely from my personal experience.
If you’re here because you’re planning to visit France/Paris soon, here are a few other articles that may interest you:
- Perfect weekend in Paris: Travel Diary
- Off-beat things to do in Paris
- Paris evening views
- Photogenic streets in Paris
- Best spots to get the perfect Eiffel tower pictures
- Spring Cherry Blossoms spotting in Paris
- Autumn in Paris
- Winter in Paris
- Winter festivities in Paris
- Everything you need to about Paris fashion
- French Proverbs I love
10 Interesting facts about French culture:
1. The way you say ‘you’ defines your relationships
In French language, you have two words for saying ‘you’ – ‘tu’ and ‘vous’. In theory- ‘vous’ is for someone who you’re only acquainted with formally or don’t really know and ‘tu’ is for your close friends. However, in reality, people may feel that you’re being distant or pushing them away when you say ‘vous’ to them or feel that you’re being too informal and casual with them if you refer to them as ‘tu’. So, what is the safest way around this? Well, I don’t speak French regularly but when I do, I wait for the native speaker to refer to me as ‘tu’ or ‘vous’ first and then I just mimic that.
2. Everyone greets everyone
I don’t care which culture you come from but the fact that a stranger in a store or on the street is gonna greet you is bound to be a bit of something new. Especially considering how reserved French people are generally. I sincerely love it though, always a great way to start any conversation/encounter!
3. The lunch hour is a sacred treasure
Me, an Indian – I believe in having a short lunch break between work or school and getting back to work or doing something else ASAP. The French find this absolutely ‘bizarre’. Because French people love to have a long lunch hour where they truly want to not only eat but indulge in conversations and relax. In fact, it’s a bit too sacred to ever skip. It’s honestly a great way to take a break between your hectic day to recharge yourself and also have great conversations with people around you.
4. Bread accompanies all food but usually isn’t on a plate
It may not be so surprising that the French like to eat a small piece of fresh bread or ‘petit pain’ with everything they eat. However, what may be surprising is that this petit pain is never on your plate. It’s either in a shared basket for the table, your food tray, or even chilling directly on the table. I know, it sounds weird, but it’s true.
5. French ‘time of arrival’ is always relaxed
So, before moving to France, in my research on facts about French culture, I read that French people are very punctual and ‘detest’ people who’re late, in fact, it’s considered to be very rude and disrespectful. However, the reality is that the French are quite relaxed about their time of arrival. Simply put, they’re always fashionably late and expect you to be, too. It doesn’t mean you go over by hours and make someone wait for you, but a delay of 5-10 minutes (or more) is just always expected.
6. Everyone goes on long vacations in summer
French employees have a lot of holidays in a year. So, it seems fitting for us to take a long holiday at the same time and ensure a smoother flow of work during the busy times of the year. Due to this, everyone in France takes a long vacation in the summer months of July-August. If someone’s business doesn’t depend on tourists, it’s very normal for them to close their stores during this time, too. So, big corporates, public offices, small shops, and even post offices- all have scanty staff and thus slow pace down in summer.
7. People believe in equality but the hierarchy is strong
France is the land of equality- undoubtedly. The culture has a low power distance and your ideas/opinions are welcome. However, the culture is also very hierarchical so people may be open to hearing your ideas, they may not always agree with them and the last say depends on the hierarchy. This is true for professional as well as social interactions. And don’t take it personally, French people may take longer to get convinced but are easy to be around once they trust your credibility.
8. You don’t tip… or expect
So, servers or sales assistants in France aren’t tipped. They don’t expect you to and since they’re paid quite well, you don’t really need to. However, given that, they also expect you to not make any special demands. If you’re not a native, you’ll get tired of the service here quite quickly. But don’t be repulsed, for better or worse, take it as a part of the culture and you’ll get used to it sooner than you expect.
9. There’s a big difference being a Parisian and being from any other French city
So being ‘Parisian’ isn’t just about fashion or style. The attitude, preferences, and even the accent of a Parisian vs a non-Parisian is distinctive… for the locals, at least. Interestingly it also creates a slight divide between the people and friend-circles, too.
10. People are reserved but kind & welcoming once comfortable
It’s a popular understanding that the French people are not open… I think there’s a bit of nuance to this. The locals here are definitely reserved. And yes, they wouldn’t take initiatives. However, if you take an initiative & make and effort, you’ll find them to be very kind and inclusive. In fact, you’ll find some of the kindest people here (like anywhere else in the world), who are very welcoming and lovely.
Now, doesn’t that ease your hesitations about France, now?
So, that was my list about facts about French culture. Which fact shocked you the most? Which fact was too obvious for you? Do you think I missed something out? Share it in the comments below.