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French Etiquette

French Etiquette You Should Learn Before Visiting France

Are you are planning a trip to France? If yes, then you must gain some knowledge about French etiquette. Read to know more about general rules about etiquette in France.
Smita Pandit
Last Updated: Jan 8, 2019
Being well-versed in French etiquette can be of great assistance if you are planning a trip to France. Every country has its own set of customs and traditions that impact the rules of communication and etiquette. If you have a business meeting in France, you would definitely want to leave a good impression on your French partner.
If you don't know the basic business etiquette that French follow, there's a great possibility that you might lose out on your chance for getting acquainted with them in a better way. If you make an effort to understand their customs and etiquette, you might be able to influence their perception about you in a positive manner.
So why take a chance? Whether you would be vacationing in France or attending a business meeting, you must respect their customs and etiquette. You will surely earn their respect by doing so.
Business Etiquette
Business man Handshake
Being polite and courteous is the first step. You must greet them in the right manner. It would be appropriate to start the meeting with an exchange of business cards. One must not appear informal on a meeting.
Personal comments would not be taken well, so restrict yourself and address the concerned person in an appropriate manner. After greeting the person, address him/her using their title and the family name. The knowledge of the French language would certainly be an added advantage. Do learn a few commonly used phrases at least.
As you proceed with a gentle handshake, use the words "pleased to meet you". You must dress appropriately. The people of France associate dress sense with status and success which is why flashy or casual clothes would be a put off for the stylish French partners. They believe in maintaining direct eye contact. This is their way of showing interest.
If you look away instead of making an eye contact, you might be perceived as a rude person. Once the meeting is over and you bid farewell, make sure you remember handshake etiquette. Do shake hands with all the people present.
Meal Etiquette
friends Enjoying Lunch
Let's move on to the meal etiquette. The French have a light breakfast anytime between 7 to 9 in the morning. A cup of coffee or hot chocolate with bread rolls or toasts, jam and croissants are common choice for breakfast.
Lunch is quite elaborate and a typical lunch menu includes sandwiches/salads, meat and vegetables along with dessert, wine and coffee. Dinner menu would generally include an appetizer, soup, a main course, dessert, coffee and chocolates. Wine would also be served. If you have been invited to a French house for dinner, don't be late.
Taking a good quality wine as a gift would be a great idea. You must be dressed in a formal attire. Do observe table manners. Start only after the hostess mentions the words "bon appetit". You must not place your elbows on the table, but at the same time, your hands must stay visible.
Make sure you hold the knife and fork properly. Another thing you need to remember is that you must never butter your bread at a meal. Leaving your glass full indicates that you don't wish to drink more wine. Avoid leaving food on the plate. Once you have finished your meal, cross your fork and knife, with the fork on the top.
French Etiquette Vs. American Etiquette
The French certainly come across as more formal. The American etiquette reveals the more casual and informal side of their culture. In the United States of America, you wouldn't be considered rude if you wave at a group of people as you leave. If you are in France or are with the French, do shake hands with all the people before you leave.
Though the French make more eye contact, they are not uncomfortable while standing slightly closer to one another. They also prefer to don formal attire, unlike the American who love to dress casually.
As far as it is dining etiquette, with the exception to a formal dinner, the French diners break chunks of bread and place them on the tablecloth next to their plates. Whereas, the American place sliced bread in a basket. Also, most Americans would tip the waiter at the restaurant, and 15% tip is included in the bill in French restaurants, so it is optional.
Now that you have a basic idea about French business etiquette, you can communicate better so as to make your meetings more successful. If you are going to France on a vacation, you would greatly benefit from understanding their customs and etiquette.