Travel, Teach, Live in Europe and Middle East
France is a beautiful country, whether you have the opportunity to live there or are just visiting for the first time. If you've never been to the country before, you might feel a little wary of the reputation France has developed for rudeness. However, this reputation is not really deserved, as it is simply the perception outsiders get when they view the more formal nature of everyday life in France. If you want to truly enjoy your time in France, it's important to understand some of the customs and traditions of this lovely country.
The Importance of Formality
The French place a lot of importance on the concept of formality. Although their formality might serve to make them seem a little rude to outsiders, it's just part of how they live their everyday life. Of course, the south of France is a little less formal than what you would find in the city of Paris, but even so, you'll definitely notice an overall formal way of life. Understanding this one fact will help you get more enjoyment out of your time in France. If you display a complete disregard for the formal social customs of France, you'll be the one that is perceived to be a rude foreign visitor.
If you're confused as to what to do in regards to social interactions while in France, the best course of action is to simply watch what the locals are doing. In most cases, if you are meeting somebody in a business context, a handshake is expected when you meet as well as when you leave. Although you might get an occasional kiss on your cheek from a casual acquaintance, kissing is generally reserved for close friends, relatives and children. In fact, children in France almost always expect to be kissed in social situations. Social customs are naturally a bit looser in southern France as compared to the more formal behavior of Paris. Although many people visualize kisses on the cheek as being customary, this practice definitely varies according to the different regions of the country.
Food has a great deal of importance in France. Meals are prepared with a careful attention to detail, so it's expected that you enjoy the food with the proper amount of attention and good manners. If you've never eaten in a French restaurant before, you might be confused by the fact that your waiter generally will not return to your table periodically to ask you how things are. Instead, they will give you plenty of space to enjoy your meal, keeping an eye on you from afar. If you need your waiter, you only have to catch their attention. This is also true when you are ready to pay your bill. In France, the tip is included in your final bill, although it is expected that you will round the bill up. Not rounding up your bill with change is considered to be a sign that you were not happy with the service you received. Wine and bread are considered to be staples at any meal, and will be available at all times. Traditional French meals are made up of several courses, which usually include hors d'oeuvres, sometimes a fish course, a main course, a salad, cheese plate, and dessert. If you've never dined in France before, you might be surprised to find that the salad is served after the main course, not before it.