What cultural faux pas should I try to avoid making in France?
We asked people in France if they could share any humorous cultural blunders they commited. For new expats, keep in mind that these incidents are an inevitable part of expat life. Learning to laugh about them is the key!...
"It is important to remember not to make sudden physical contact without permission and to maintain a certain level of personal space. Making fun of the French language should also be avoided. Furthermore, dressing too casually and being discourteous or impatient in public can be seen as a sign of disrespect. Refraining from speaking loudly and using offensive language is also critical for avoiding cultural faux pas. Finally, always show politeness and gratitude by greeting people, learning a few local phrases, and using proper etiquette when dining," explained one expat living in France.
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"Several times, the different layout of the calendar (starting on Monday instead of Sunday) made me miss important appointments. I had an appointment at the consulate on a Tuesday, and when I glanced at the calendar to buy my ticket, I saw that it was on the second day of the week so my mind automatically thought "Monday." After 2 hours on the train to get there, the staff informed me that my appointment was the next day, but were kind enough to accommodate my mistake and get my paperwork signed that day. It happened once more after that before I realized why I kept confusing my Mondays and Tuesdays, and now I always double-check the date & day of the week instead of relying on the column under which the date appears on a calendar. Also, when meeting with the mayor's assistant for our pre-marriage interview (so he could customize our ceremony) I accidentally used the familiar version of "you" ("tu") instead of the formal version ("vous"), which resulted in a puzzled look from him and an embarrassed yet slightly amused look from my husband. Fortunately, afterward my husband assured me that my accent made it kind of cute, and that most French people understand when it's a foreigner. The rules on when to use which version are still not crystal clear for me (and I have no idea when one can switch from "tu" to "vous"), and from then on I've always been very careful about how I address people I've just met. Sometimes I even craft my sentences specifically to avoid needing to say "you."," said another expat in Epinal, France.
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- What is life like in France?
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- What are medical services in France like?
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- As a foreigner living in France, will I have access to public healthcare? What is it like?
- What have your experiences during the pandemic with the local healthcare system been like?
What cultural faux pas should I try to avoid making in France?If you live in France, newcomers to France would love to hear your answer to this question.
About the Author
Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.
Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.