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Travel, Teach, Live in Europe and Middle East

A Guide To French Culture For Beginners (France)

Understanding the culture of a country will help you to embrace the lifestyle, deal appropriately with your hosts and other people and in general ensure a more enjoyable and, from a business perspective, effective, trip.

The French are inherently extremely friendly and hospitable, but they appreciate visitors making an effort to fit into a culture of which they are demonstrably proud. The French are in many senses innately private people, so there is a high degree of formality and courtesy between strangers, especially in business. Friends often greet each other by lightly kissing on the cheeks, once on the right and once on the left, and first names are only used for close acquaintances and family members, unless indicated otherwise. Friendships are valued highly and frequent meetings are the norm.

France is well known for its superb cuisine and its variety of wines. Both its regional and classical gastronomy is regarded as elegant and sophisticated. Cheese is an integral part of French gastronomy, as an ingredient and accompaniment and French wine is exceptional. French cuisine varies from region to region, depending on local produce and tradition, with the vast majority of dishes being refined and of high quality. Nationally, pastries are especially popular, with croissants and pain au chocolat (bread filled with chocolate) being eaten for breakfast with coffee or tea.

Restaurants usually open around 7:30pm for dinner and stop taking orders around 10 or 11pm. A 15% service charge (servis compris) is included in the bill under French law, so giving a small tip is entirely at the discretion of the customer and is a simple act of generosity. Shops usually close on Sundays, and may close for lunch during the week, so it is a good idea to eat at mealtimes to ensure the cafés are open and to visit other attractions at other times. If you are invited to a dinner party it is polite to arrive on time. Gifts are appreciated, but if you buy wine you should buy the best that you can.

French culture is linked directly with the French language, which is spoken in thirty three countries worldwide. The language shares many words and structures with other Latin-based languages and indeed English. It is polite to learn some basic phrases to get by in France: you will receive far warmer treatment if you do. In rural areas, knowledge of French is sometimes crucial. You should always address strangers first before asking for their help. The following are a few useful phrases:

Hello/Good evening Mrs/Mr - Bonjour/Bonsoir Madame/Monsieur How are you? (Informal) - Comment ça va?
I'm fine, and you? (Informal) - ça va bien, et toi?
How are you? (Formal/Plural) - Comment allez-vous?
I'm fine (Formal) - Je vais bien

My name is... - Je m'appelle...
What is your name? (Formal) - Comment vous appelez-vous?

Do you speak English? - Parlez-vous anglais?
Excuse me - Excusez-moi

Goodbye - Au revoir
Yes - Oui
No - Non
Please - S'il vous plaît
Thank you – Merci

With Linguarama you can immerse yourself in a language and take a foreign language course abroad, for example study French in France. Or take a language course closer to home http://www.linguarama.com/courses/french-in-france.

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