20 Things to Never Do in France

Ephraim Obare
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Welcome, dear globe-trotters! So, you’re planning to hop over to the land of wine and cheese, eh? With its rich history, astounding architecture, and mouth-watering cuisine, France is a sight for sore eyes and a treat for discerning palates.

But navigating the cultural labyrinth can be as tricky as pronouncing “croissant” without sounding like you’re gargling. This guide, ’20 Things to Never Do in France’, is your golden ticket to avoiding those faux pas that even Google Translate can’t save you from. So, grab a baguette, take a seat, and let’s dive headfirst into the do’s and don’ts of the French realm. Bonne chance!

Don’t Call Everyone ‘Vous’

Don't Call Everyone 'Vous'
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In France, you have ‘Tu’ for informal and ‘Vous’ for formal. Be sure to read the room before you start throwing around ‘Vous’ like confetti.

While in English, “you” covers almost everyone, from your boss to your buddy, French is a tad more nuanced. Tread lightly in the land of ‘tu’ and ‘vous,’ or you might accidentally step on some linguistic toes.

Avoid Talking Loudly in Public

Avoid Talking Loudly in Public
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You see, the French are all about savoring the peace in every moment. They treat conversation like a fine wine, to be savored, not guzzled. So, if you’re in France, keep the volume down. Keep your voice down if you don’t want to get the evil eye. The French are pretty reserved.

Remember, your indoor voice isn’t just for indoors. It’s more of an everywhere voice, really. Unless, of course, you’re in a football stadium or a rock concert, then by all means, let loose!

Don’t Leave Uneaten Food

French Food
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Here’s some food for thought: leaving uneaten food on your plate is a no-no in France. Why? It’s simple: The French have an unspoken reverence for food. A half-eaten croissant isn’t just a crying waste of exquisite baking – it’s a slap in the face to the chef, the waiter, and the wheat farmer in Normandy.

Leaving your plate looking like a battlefield of baguette crumbs and cheese rinds is akin to saying, “This meal wasn’t even worth finishing.” Sacré Bleu! In France, every morsel is a masterpiece.

Never Underestimate the Power of a Good ‘Bonjour’

Never Underestimate the Power of a Good 'Bonjour'
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If you plan to breeze past the local bakery without a jovial ‘Bonjour!’, think again! This is not just a common courtesy in France; it’s practically a social law. Ignoring this essential greeting could easily brand you as an unrefined tourist.

So, whether buying a baguette or stepping into an elevator, remember that unleashing a hearty ‘Bonjour!’ can be more powerful than your high school French teacher ever made you believe. It’s the secret sauce to blending in and earning appreciation from the French. Parfait!

Don’t Ignore the Art of Pairing

Don't Ignore the Art of Pairing
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Do you know that sweet symphony that plays when the perfect wine meets the right cheese on your palate? In France, it’s not just a culinary combo; it’s an art form. So, before you reach out for that glass of Merlot to wash down your Roquefort, take a pause!

Pairing wine and cheese is a sacred ritual in France, and ignoring this might earn you ‘the look’ from French connoisseurs. So, do yourself a favor, dive into the art of pairing, and make your taste buds dance the French waltz.

Avoid Being Overly Familiar

Avoid Being Overly Familiar
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Here’s a friendly tip to avoid getting raised eyebrows in France: don’t be overly familiar. Keep the “tu” at bay unless explicitly invited. Sure, in the age of social media, boundaries can seem as outdated as a dial-up modem, but in France, jumping to a first-name basis or using the informal “tu” to address someone you’ve just met is as welcome as a skunk at a garden party.

Stick to “vous” and formal titles until they roll out the red carpet and usher you into their inner circle. It’s just good manners, Parisian style.

Don’t Cut Cheese the Wrong Way

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Oh, the cheese! French cheese is a culinary masterpiece, but it comes with rules – of course, it does. Cutting cheese is an art form, not a casual hack job in the land of camembert and Roquefort. In France, never, and I mean never, butcher a cheese by cutting out the tip or the middle.

It’s the equivalent of snipping the Mona Lisa’s smile from her portrait – it’s just not done. Observe the shape and slice accordingly. Remember, in the world of French fromage, etiquette matters as much as taste.

Never Rush Through Dinner

Never Rush Through Dinner
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Never, and I mean, never rush through dinner in France. Food is not just a method of sustenance for the French, it’s an event, a social gathering, practically a religion. You see, in France, meals are a marathon, not a sprint.

It’s not uncommon for dinner to last two, three, sometimes even four hours! So sit back, relax, and savor every bite. Remember, in France, food is to be enjoyed.

Don’t Go Overboard Tuning Into Non-French Music

Don’t Go Overboard Tuning Into Non-French Music 
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Alright, we get it. You’re on vacation in France, and you’re just dying to blast your favorite tunes. But hold your horses before you go overboard with your non-French music.

When in France, show a little appreciation for the native tunes. After all, nothing quite sets the mood for a French adventure like some classic French chansons in the background!

Avoid Talking About Money

Avoid Talking About Money
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You might see it as casual chit-chat, but in France, money talk is a big no-no. It’s as if you’ve committed the cardinal sin of breaking a baguette the wrong way! So, leave your wealth-flaunting and penny-pinching discussions at the door.

The French prefer to keep their financial affairs as private as their favorite wine cellar. The hint is clear – when in France, steer clear of the money talk unless you want your conversation to turn as sour as un-aged wine!

Don’t Skip the Queue

Don't Skip the Queue
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Don’t even think about it. Yes, you. The one considering sneaking in front of that elderly lady with her baguette. In France, queue-jumping is a cardinal sin, punishable by a chorus of tutting, rolling eyes, and, on occasion, a stern “Excusez-moi!” from a local who isn’t afraid to put you in your place.

So, unless you fancy being the star of your own public shaming spectacle, stick to the rule – first come, first served. It’s not just polite, it’s the French way.

Never Wear Extravagant Clothes in Public

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Hold your haute couture horses, fashionistas! The French fashion scene is all about understated elegance, not flamboyant peacockery. Wearing extravagant, attention-grabbing clothes in public is akin to wearing a signboard that says “tourist” in neon lights.

Remember, in France, Coco Chanel is queen, and her philosophy of ‘less is more’ rules the roost. So, when in France, keep it chic, simple and sophisticated. Your fashion dignity will thank you.

Don’t Ask for Substitutions in Your Order

Don't Ask for Substitutions in Your Order
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In France, the chef is an artist, and their menu a masterpiece. If you see a plate on the menu that’s a perfect symphony of flavors, but for that one dissonant note of an ingredient you dislike, resist the urge to request a substitution. Trust me, asking for a “Croque Monsieur without ham” at a Parisian café is like asking Van Gogh to repaint Starry Night without the stars.

It’s a faux-pas that could earn you an unwanted title of ‘Le Rude Tourist’. Enjoy the culinary journey as the chef intended, or look for another dish that tickles your palate just right.

Avoid Overly Casual Attire in Nice Restaurants

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If you’re planning to dine in a fancy restaurant in France, don’t let the casual dress code of your home country tag along. French bistros and gastronomic temples take their attire as seriously as they do their Coq au Vin.

Think twice before pulling on those comfortable cargo shorts or that adorable “I Heart Paris” tee. A more polished outfit will show respect for the establishment and your fellow diners. After all, you wouldn’t want to be the only one looking like you’ve lost your tour group, would you?

Don’t Make a Toast Without Looking into the Person’s Eyes

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Ah, the French toast. No, not the breakfast delicacy, but the clinking of the glasses, signifying the camaraderie and warmth of social gatherings. If you ever find yourself in such a situation in France, beware! Never, ever lock glasses with someone without making direct eye contact.

It’s a social faux pas you’d best avoid unless you fancy seven years of bad luck, as local lore dictates. So, make sure your eyes meet theirs when you ‘trinquez’ (toast) – it’s a small price to pay for good luck, don’t you think?

Never Discuss Controversial Topics

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You see, the French have perfected the art of passionate debate, but it’s often best to leave the hot potatoes like politics, religion, and money off the table.

Especially when you’re a guest in France, it’s smarter to stick to the safer side of conversations unless you’re itching to turn your baguette breakfast into a heated duel of words. Remember, your croissant tastes better without a side of controversy!

Don’t Forget to Say ‘Bonne Année’

Don't Forget to Say 'Bonne Année'
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Never let those New Year’s wishes slip your mind when you’re in France. Forget about “Happy New Year” and get accustomed to saying “Bonne Année” instead. The French adore their traditions, and this one’s no exception.

Miss out on wishing someone a “Bonne Année” in the first month of the year, and you might just find yourself sipping on that café au lait all alone. So, do it like the locals and spread the joy of the New Year in French style!

Avoid Being Late without a Good Excuse

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Oh la la, the French and their punctuality! It’s a fickle relationship at best. In France, being late without a reasonable excuse is a big ‘no-no.’ It’s like arriving at a party without a baguette under your arm – you just don’t do it.

If you are tardy, you’d better have a tale of epic proportions to explain your delay, like a surprise encounter with a legion of pantomime mimes or an impromptu detour to the Louvre. Otherwise, be on time, or be ready to face the stylishly raised eyebrows of your French compatriots!

Don’t Expect Shops to Be Open All Day

Don’t Expect Shops to Be Open All Day
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Many French shop owners still respect the time-honored tradition of a midday break, making a leisurely two-hour lunch more important than business. So, if you plan on indulging in a shopping spree post-lunch, you might face closed doors.

Let’s say ‘au Revoir to 24/7 shopping and ‘bonjour’ to the French way, where work-life balance isn’t just a concept but a way of life!

Never Assume Everyone Speaks English

Never Assume Everyone Speaks English
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Don’t assume speaking in your native English tongue will get you far on the charming streets of France. Many French people speak English, but it’s not an open invitation to start a conversation in Shakespeare’s language. Just remember, you’re in the land of Molière and Victor Hugo, and a little effort to parlez-vous Français will go a long way.

It’s not just about communication; it’s a sign of respect for their culture and language. So, before you start ordering that croissant or buying a ticket to the Louvre, try your hand at the local lingo. “Bonjour” isn’t that hard, is it?

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  • Ephraim Obare

    Ephraim Obare is a versatile member of the Frenz Hub writing team, bringing a rich background in economics to his work. An avid swimmer, reader, and cyclist, Ephraim blends analytical insights with his diverse interests.

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