Travelling is set to become part of our lives again, so if you're visiting France, here's all you need to know before you visit.
Now that countries are opening up for travel, we shall bring you useful information on one country each week and as is evident we have begun with France.
A bit of background
In modern history, the sheer devastation wreaked on this nation during the four years of German occupation and WWII was unbelievable.
The famous question : “Is Paris burning?” was asked by Hitler who did not want to leave one building intact after his defeat at the hands of the allied forces.
The word Paris comes from it’s early inhabitants, the Parisii, who were a Gaellic tribe from the Iron age. As early as the mid 1800s the city was the most illuminated place in the world with 56,000 gas lamps.
The most known boulevard in the world, the Champs-Elysees, was built way back in 1564 and acquired its modern style on the orders of Louis XIV in 1664.
As for the country, the word France means the Realm of the Franks.
In this context Frank means Free. Originally, they were a Germanic tribe going back to the 3rd century.
After WWII and with the installation of the government headed by Charles de Gaulle the country was rebuilt at a scorching pace, all within 10 years and so was the economy.
It’s a misconception that the French are laid back and lazy. Fact is that they are among the most productive people and produce on a per hour basis about 34 percent more than the Germans.
They are also an egalitarian society and take the principles of equality, fraternity and solidarity very seriously and are a united lot who will, whatever the inconvenience, support all kinds of protests.
In the event of natural disasters, even the retired engineers, electricians and other skilled individuals come out in great numbers to help for nothing in return.
The country has over the last decades built one of the best education systems, research facilities, industry and their GDP per capita has grown to over 40,000 dollars making it the seventh largest economy.
As we all know, be it artists, writers or even technocrats the country has always attracted them all and is famous for it’s stunning beauty, the mountains, the coast, fashion houses, classical art museums, cuisine and wines.
As a matter of fact, Italy and Spain are the largest wine producing countries followed by France and the US.
All the same, when talking about people’s preference, it is usually for French wine. If the label says “Vin de France” it automatically fetches a superior price.
That’s probably because of the French being masters at softsell. How else do you think French as a language became so immensely popular!?
Rules to follow
Just as when guests stay with us and we want them to follow house rules, so do the French. They are, and rightly so, sticklers for good manners and their way of living.
So here are a few ‘rules’ to follow while visiting or living in France and you’ll enjoy the country which has much to offer.
Speak softly. They hate it when spoken to in a loud voice or hearing loud voices.
Learn a few useful words and sentences. Once you begin speaking in French, even haltingly and seeing that you’re making an effort, they will gladly, in most cases, speak back with you in English.
To them it’s the effort that you make is what’s important.
- Bonjour! (Good morning, hello)
- Bonsoir (Good evening.)
- Bonne journée (Have a nice day.)
- Au revoir (Bye)
- Madame/Monsieur/Mademoiselle (Mrs. /Mr. /Miss.)
- Pardon, excusez-moi. (Pardon, excuse me..)
- Parlez-vous anglais? (Do you speak English?)
- Je ne parle pas français. (I do not speak French.)
- Merci (Thank you)
- De rien. (You’re welcome.).
- Pourriez-vous m’aider? (Can you help me?)
- Je suis perdu (I’m lost.) This phrase can get you places if it follows Bonjour/Bonsoir Madame/Monsieur/Mademoiselle. More often than not the person will walk you to the hotel/metro station/taxi stand.
- Je t’aime (I love you.) In case you get lucky.
- Je t’aime aussi (I love you too.) In case you get luckier. Never say Je t’aime beaucoup which literally translates to I love you very much but in French it means much less than I love you and is meaningless.
Tips To Get By
If invited to a restaurant, reach on time.
If invited to someone’s home, reach 15 minutes late. (In most countries it’s bad manners to reach late but in France it shows consideration towards the hostess who must have these extra minutes for herself after she’s done the cooking etc.)
Never take a bottle of wine as a gift. Your host and hostess would have carefully chosen the right pairing and will otherwise feel offended as well as obliged to serve the wine you’ve brought.
Avoid flowers as well. If you’ve brought something from the country you come from or any other small but a thoughtful gift, it’ll be greatly appreciated.
Do not begin eating until everyone starts.
Do not say thank you until you’ve been served the quantity you want or you will be stopped being served immediately and go hungry.
Never ask for a second helping of cheese that’s traditionally served after dinner or it’ll be construed that you didn’t like the food.
Always keep your fork with the tines pointed down. The other way is regarded as crude or vulgar.
Do not switch cutlery from one hand to another.
Always keep your hands on the table. Not the elbows.
If your business associate gives you an appointment for 11.00 in the morning it’s safe to assume that you’re important enough and will be invited for lunch after the business meeting. If the appointment is any earlier, you’re not important or not yet anyway.
Always wear a dark blue suit and a tie for a business meeting. It’s alright to wear a casual blazer if invited to somebody’s home. For ladies any tasteful attire is fine.
If living in France maintain a Laissez-faire (leave it be) approach if you see husbands/wives/partners cheating. In all probability they know about each other and it’s the French way of keeping marriages and relationships on even keel.
Show respect to adults and children alike. This society makes sure that they respect all. Children are taught good manners at an early age.
For example even if you give someone trash to throw away the person will say Merci while taking it from you. This should give you some measure of how far good manners go in this country. In fact, France is the only country that awards medals for good parenting and teaching of dignity.
Never knock on the neighbour’s door before 1.00pm during weekends. The French love their sleep and wake up only around midday on weekends and holidays. The average sleep they get is around 8 hours and 30 minutes.
Social distancing has been heavily objected to in France due to Covid. It is customary to kiss each cheek, even among men and business associates. In some parts of France they kiss four times but usually one kiss on each cheek is adequate. A good habit actually. Generates Oxytonin the happiness hormone. This will come back once Covid is behind us.
Neighbours are important and helpful to each other. This country even has a neighbour’s day, each year.
Modesty is valued. Be modest. When you compliment someone it will be accepted with modesty.
Vive La France
Now you might say what’s all this foofaraw about? The truth is the French are an extremely evolved, well read and hospitable people.
All the good manners we have spoken about will be given to you in good measure.
Visiting this country or living there is a truly enjoyable experience. If you can say something nice, say it.
If you can do something nice, do it and there’s no place on this planet you won’t be pleased with.
From France, we take you to the tropical climbs of Zanzibar for an adventure:
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