Things To Know About France For Your Trip

By , July 7, 2011 1:16 pm
Things To Know About France

Things To Know About France

France is a wonderful country to visit and to live in. It has beautiful scenery and cycling through France is one of the best ways to see its surroundings. Before coming here for the first time, there are a few things to know about France that we want to prepare you with to make your visit even better. I have put together common phrases and words to know in French; you will be better than me at speaking French in no time. And don’t be obvious about being a tourist. Know the differences between American and French culture and customs. I hope you find our tips useful or just have fun with it!


Things To Know About France: French Culture And Customs

French Toasting: Cheers French Greeting: Kisses On Cheeks

How To Kiss:

To greet one another, the French custom is to kiss on the cheeks instead of shaking hands. They kiss two, three, or sometimes four times depending on the region, but it’s always safe to go with two kisses, one on each cheek. Yes, they kiss everyone, both man and woman. If you do not feel comfortable, just stick out your hand to indicate that you want to shake hands instead. Not familiar with how to kiss and greet French style? Just follow their move and remember, it is impolite not to respond.

French Eye Contact:

In many cultures, making eye contact is very personal and it can feel strange or creepy. In France, making eye contact means equality and politeness. When greeting another person, talking to another person, or drink toasting, it is impolite and a way of looking down on another person if you DO NOT make eye contact.


The toast has been a custom to partake when having an alcoholic drink among friends and family. Before taking any sip of your drink, everyone raises his or her glass, and everyone says “Santé” (health) or “Tchin Tchin” (cheers). Then you have to clink your glass with each person and say “Santé” or “Tchin Tchin”. Just make sure you do not cross glasses with another; wait for the others to be finished and then clink glasses with the other person. Once you have finished clinking your glass with everyone in the group, then you can enjoy your first sip.


Other French Culture And Customs To Know

France roundabouts
When arriving in France, the language, customs, and culture can be very different from what you are used to. Everything I mentioned above are mandatory things to know about France. Next are a few things to keep in mind.
» All nouns have a gender; they are either masculine or feminine. For some nouns, the gender makes sense, like homme [man] is masculine and femme [woman] is feminine. That’s easy! However, there are lots of other words where the gender does not make sense. For example, personne [person] is always feminine regardless if the person is male or female.
» There are two different ways to go about getting hitched in France: you can get married the traditional way or enter into a PACS, a legally recognized civil union open to heterosexual or same-sex couples. Even with these two options, it is common to find many French couples that choose not to get married regardless of having children or not.
» Universal health care is available to all legal residents of France. Also, higher education is free (or for a small fee).
» There is no drinking age in France, but you must be at least 18 years of age to purchase alcohol. France has very strict drinking & driving laws; you should not be under the influence of alcohol. However, you can drink openly in a car if you are not driving or while walking in the streets. Until recently, everyone is allowed to drink while on the job, but it is no longer true for policemen.
» Some things to know about France, that tourists learn the hard way, is that most shops are closed in France on Sundays and sometimes Mondays. This includes supermarkets. While this is currently changing, plan for it.
» On Sundays, gas stations are most likely closed too. There are automatic gasoline pumping stations, but you must have a credit card and most machines (same goes for tolls) do not take American & Canadian credit cards.
» I think the most shocking difference for me is when I stayed over an acquaintance’s house for the first time in France. In the mornings in a French household, many feel comfortable coming out in what they slept in, as they are in their own home. Regardless if it is an underwear or/and bra, or just a robe, they will come out to have breakfast just wearing that. I guess as Americans, we are a bit more prudish.
» Last but not least, if you plan to do a car hire and drive in France, you should have a valid International driver’s license. Things to know about French roads are the many roundabouts and that most cars are stick shift (manual). The most important and dangerous rule to know is that a car coming from your right has the right of way. Be careful because not all French drivers abide by this rule. The best description I found was in the book, Merde Actuallyamazon, by Stephen Clarke:

This is the stupidest most dangerous law in the Western world. It is the French law that states that a car coming from the right has the right of way. You might be tooling along on what looks and feels like a major road, and if a car leaps out of a tiny hidden sidetrack without looking to see whether anything is coming, and thereby wipes out your whole family, it’s perfectly legal because it was coming from the right.

MERDE! [or Mehr|duh]


How to say in French?

If you are worried about speaking the French language, don’t worry because history shows that even they had a tough time. By 1790, there was a standardized French language, but still half of the French population did not speak or understand it. They continued speaking regional languages that were very extreme from one another. Then during the French Revolution, the teaching of French was taught in all the schools, so improvements began in the French language. According to the Constitution of France, French has been the official language since 1992 (Wikipedia is another great source for things to know about France.)

French flag

Common Phrases And Words To Know in French

In English: How To Say In French: Translation in English Phonetics:
Hello (or good morning) Bonjour Boh(n)-zhoor
Do you speak English? Parlez-vous anglais? Pahr-lay-voo ah(n)-gleh?
I do not speak French Je ne parle pas francais Zhuh nuh pahrl pah frah(n)-seh
I do not understand Je n’ai pas compris Zhuh nuh koh(m)-prah(n) pah
I don’t know Je ne sais pas Zhuh nuh seh pah
What is your name? Comment t’appelles-tu? Koh-mah(n) vooz ah-puh-lay-voo?
My name is … Je m’appelle … Zhuh mah-pehl …
How Are you? Comment allez-vous? Koh-mah(n)t ah-lay-voo?
Fine/Well Bien Byeh(n)
Yes Oui Wee
No Non Noh(n)
Nice to meet you Enchanté Ah(n)-shah(n)-tay
Excuse me Excusez moi Ehks-kew-zay-mwah
Please S’il vous plaît Seel voo pleh
Thanks (a lot) Merci (beaucoup) Mehr-see (boh-koo)
You’re welcome De rien Duh ryeh(n)
Can you write that, please? Pouvez-vous l’écrire s’il vous plaît? Poo-ryay-voo laykreer, seel voo pleh?
Where are the bathrooms? Oú sont les toilettes? Ooh soh(n) lay twa-leht?
Goodbye Au revoir Oh ruh-vwahr
See you soon À bientôt Ah byeh(n)-toh



When I saw all the soldes signs for the first time in France, I was like what’s going on? How can I possibly buy anything if it is all sold out!*#& [Clearly noted: soldes means sales]

French Soldes Sale


Mistaken Phrases And Words To Know In French

English Word How To Say In French: Translation In English:
Shower Douche A product used to sanitize a vagina
Sandals Tongue A garment generally worn as either underwear or as a swimsuit
Thong String A thread used for tying


Bad Phrases And Words To Know in French

In English: How To Say In French: Translation In English Phonetics:
Shit Merde Mehr|duh
Damn Putain Pooh|tahn


*** If you have a funny story about your first time in France, share it with us. We love hearing from you so leave us a comment. Merci! ***

6 Responses to “Things To Know About France For Your Trip”

  1. denise says:

    Don’t forget to say Bonjour to everyone in the morning when you
    wake up. It’s the hardest thing for me, since I’m a nightmare in
    the mornings.

  2. muimui says:

    I feel you Denise! Some mornings I want to go straight to the
    coffee machine before greeting anyone but then I have to say
    Bonjour and sometimes even give kisses. I thought it was a lot of
    formality at first but then I realized, we get away with having bad
    manners in the states.

  3. Stephanie Richards says:

    Thank you so much for these tips and tricks. I’m headed to France
    this weekend and will be there for a month!!!! I don’t speak French
    but know some Italian since I lived there for 3 years. But it’s
    been over 7 years since I was in Europe. I’m a little nervous but
    know it will be amazing!!

  4. Safisha says:

    Something important to correct about cheek and cheek : In France,
    we don’t do cheek and cheek with everyone we meet. It’s not really
    like checking hand : it’s much more familiar. Furthermore, some
    important point is MEN DON’T DO IT WITH EACH OTHER. Don’t know why,
    it’s not very manly I guess. Guys prefer to shake hand. But women
    do cheek and cheek with each other, and men do cheek and cheek with

  5. Pierre says:

    WRONG! In the professional world: everybody shakes hands, women
    with women, women with men, men with men. Sometimes if two people
    have known each other for a long time and have become friends, they
    would kiss on the cheeks, but that does not mean that you can do it
    with them as well! In the private world, when you meet someone for
    the first time you would normally shake his/her hands, and after
    the first time kiss on the cheeks betwenn men and women and between
    women. Men to men: if they are in the same family, or good friends,
    they would kiss on the cheeks too! But sure you would have to be
    very close friends to do so.

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