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Customs and Etiquette in Paris: 15 Things Every Visitor Should Know – Fodors Travel Guide

Never eat fruit whole. Fruit should be peeled and sliced before eating. When finished eating, place knife and fork side by side on the plate at the 5: Cross your knife and fork across your plate to signify that you would like more food. Do not smoke between courses. Leave wine glass almost full if you don't care for more.

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Leaving food on your plate is impolite. Do not ask for a tour of your host's home, it would be considered impolite. Send a thank-you note or telephone the next day to thank hostess. Dress The French are the world leaders in fashion. Dress is conservative and understated. Casual attire is inappropriate in cities. Be clean and well-dressed at all times. For business, men should wear conservative suits and ties; women should wear conservative suits, pant suits and dresses.

Suit coats stay on in offices and restaurants. Gifts Small business gifts may be exchanged, but usually not at the first meeting.

Give a good quality gift or none at all. Do not give gifts with your company logo stamped on them the French consider this garish. When invited to someone's home, always bring a small gift for the hostess. If possible, send flowers the morning of the party popular in Paris. Otherwise, present a gift to the hostess upon arrival.

A gift to the hostess will probably not be unwrapped immediately unless no other guests are present or expected.

10 things you need to know about French etiquette

Give candy, cookies, cakes and flowers. Do not give gifts of 6 or 12 for lovers ; gifts of odd numbers, especially 13; chrysanthemums or red roses; or wine unless it is exceptional quality. A gift should be of high quality and wrapped beautifully. Helpful Hints Lower your voice a little and behave graciously and you will enjoy a warm response from the French. The French value their privacy. Try to demonstrate some knowledge of history, politics and French culture. Compliments may be appreciated, but usually are received by denial instead of "thank you. The French do not tell or like to hear jokes.

They prefer intelligent and satirical wit.

French Culture, Customs and Etiquette

Funny stories of real life situations are appreciated. Especially for Women An increasing number of French women hold management positions in retail, service, law, finance and human resources. Foreign women are generally accepted in business, though they may be flirted with on occasion.

Women are better accepted in management positions in the major cities than the provinces. Business women may invite a Frenchman to lunch or dinner and will have no problem picking up the tab. Adapted from material compiled by Window on the World, a cross-cultural training and consulting firm. What they will not do is maintain steady eye contact or smile. When entering and leaving a shop, greet and say good-bye to the staff. Other than that, the French like to kiss. Table manners are often considered a litmus test of your character or upbringing.

They never serve themselves before serving the rest of the table. Despite their reputation as romantics, the French have a practical approach towards marriage. Families have few children, but parents take their role as guardians and providers very seriously. Relationships - Public vs. Private The French are private people and have different rules of behaviour for people within their social circle and those who are not. Although the French are generally polite in all dealings, it is only with their close friends and family that they are free to be themselves.

Friendship brings with it a set of roles and responsibilities, including being available should you be needed. Friendship involves frequent, if not daily, contact. Friends may greet each other by lightly kissing on the cheeks, once on the left cheek and once on the right cheek. First names are reserved for family and close friends. Wait until invited before using someone's first name. You are expected to say 'bonjour' or 'bonsoir' good morning and good evening with the honorific title Monsieur or Madame when entering a shop and 'au revoir' good-bye when leaving.

If you live in an apartment building, it is polite to greet your neighbours with the same appellation. Gift Giving Etiquette Flowers should be given in odd numbers but not 13, which is considered unlucky. Some older French retain old-style prohibitions against receiving certain flowers: White lilies or chrysanthemums as they are used at funerals; red carnations as they symbolize bad will; any white flowers as they are used at weddings.

Prohibitions about flowers are not generally followed by the young.


When in doubt, it is always best to err on the side of conservatism. If you give wine, make sure it is of the highest quality you can afford. The French appreciate their wines. Gifts are usually opened when received. Dining Etiquette If you are invited to a French house for dinner: Under no circumstances should you arrive more than 10 minutes later than invited without telephoning to explain you have been detained.

The further south you go in the country, the more flexible time is. If invited to a large dinner party, especially in Paris, send flowers the morning of the occasion so that they may be displayed that evening. The French are fashion conscious and their version of casual is not as relaxed as in many western countries.

Table manners Table manners are Continental -- the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating. If there is a seating plan, you may be directed to a particular seat. Do not begin eating until the hostess says 'bon appetit'. If you have not finished eating, cross your knife and fork on your plate with the fork over the knife.

Do not rest your elbows on the table, although your hands should be visible and not in your lap. Finish everything on your plate. Do not cut salad with a knife and fork. Fold the lettuce on to your fork. Peel and slice fruit before eating it. Leave your wine glass nearly full if you do not want more.