Check my list of gaffes you should avoid making in France. Discover My Top Faux Pas in France and feel proud when being able to avoid them!!
FAUX PAS is an indiscretion, or tactless act that violates social norms, customs, or etiquette. It refers to all countries actually and describes the actions inappropriate in different societies and cultures. I call it the gaffe you should avoid making when in France.
Because after living in France long enough to make enough faux pas (as I like learning by experiencing…so the painful way ), after making myself feel really embarrassed enough times, in many occasions in France, I created a list of gaffes you should avoid making in France, my top faux pas in France and I’m very happy to share it with you.
And you? Have you ever been stuck in an actual socially awkward scenario? I’m sure my list of gaffes to avoid doing in France, my top faux pas in France, is not complete as there will always be something that makes me commit the faux pas in France that I haven’t experienced yet. But that’s life…we learn everyday. However, at this moment, I wanted to share my experience with you and if you can also add anything to the list or share your thoughts about faux pas in France I would really appreciate. Thank you!!!!
My Faux Pas in Small Talks and Conversations in France
- Avoid speaking in English to the French people. Instead, try to talk to a French person using their language, even if it’s not very good, by speaking french, you will be respected more.
- Never just say Bonjour to somebody you know. It’s more polite to add their name into the mix (like “Bonjour Adam”). But most importantly, always say bonjour to a French person even if you don’t know them. It’s very polite in France to say bonjour.
- Avoid calling person by name or “tu”. Always, in a conversation between adults, start calling the other person “vous” unless told otherwise. French people will dislike you or will feel very offended if you call them “tu“.
- Never start conversations by all the subjects you think are neutral and popular in other cultures. There are many topics in France that are inappropriate as a conversation starter include questions involving money or personal inquiries such as “what do you do for a living?”, “are you married?”, “do you have kids?” Stick to safer topics, very popular in France like the French culture, art, food, music, philosophy, architecture, and popular events.
- Avoid calling people by name only. Use the words Madame (for females).
- Avoid doing the business talks during lunch. The French believe that there is more to life than working nonstop. Sit back, enjoy your meal, and talk about something else than business. You have usually 1.5 hours for it. Use it well as you will finish your work late anyway.
- Avoid questions about political preferences. Wait for the person to open up that sort of conversation, don’t jump into it. This was not a problem for me, I’m ‘null’ on politics!
- Never call the server at the restaurant “Garçon”. It’s like calling them “boy”. That is irrespectful.
My Faux Pas in Actions and Gestures in France
- Avoid making a fist with one hand and slapping the top of it with your other hand. This is considered as rude
- Never use the well known American OK sign (made by forming a circle using the thumb and index finger while the rest of the fingers are straight). It can mean “zero” or “worthless” in France. Note, that the French OK sign is the ‘thumbs up’ sign.
- Never refuse a kiss on the cheek even and especially from a person you just met. But never hug a French person no matter how long you know them. French person will feel scared. Remember that shaking hands is for formal transactions and acquaintances.
- Never offer chrysanthemums (flowers) to somebody. This kind of flowers are used to decorate the french family tombs and graves. Avoid giving a present of red carnations. This flower represents bad will in France. Avoid presenting red roses to your hostess or professional acquaintances as this can be thought of as inappropriate behavior. Red roses mean an expression of love.
- Avoid coming to a party empty handed.
- Never hold an umbrella open indoors. It may be considered as bad luck.
- Never snap your fingers. This is considered offensive.
- Never chew gum in public. It is seen in France as vulgar.
- Avoid using your index finger to point to a certain direction. Try to use your whole hand to do so.
- Avoid sitting with your legs spread apart. The French consider this impolite.
- Avoid yawning without putting your hand on your mouth.
- Avoid sitting in a public transport when you can see an elderly walking in, offer him/her your seat. Actually, it is a well known rule that exists in Poland and many other countries. I’m happy to see french people respect it as well.
- Avoid being too punctual or worse, too early. You are allowed 10 to 15 minutes delay and it’s never seen as a bad thing. Remember, when you are organising party, expect for a French person to arrive 15mins later. They think it’s polite to give the hosts more time….
- Never call after 10PM. The French people seem not to like to be woken up. Even if you know your French friend may still be awake, the ring could wake up someone close.
- Never leave a card received from a French man/woman unanswered. It is polite to respond back by sending them a response Thank You card.
There is one more type of Faux Pas you can easily commit when being in France but I won’t write about it here. I feel it needs a separate article as it’s quite essential part of the French culture and mentality. It is simply the Faux Pas in Dining you can easily commit in France….soon to come.