good bad manners

Tatyana Markovtsev good badSo, how good are your manners?

You know, the French take manners very seriously!

You could lose a friend or maybe even your head if you’re not careful. 😉

Check out the article below for some more insight into French manners, and watch the video for some French that’s not worth losing!

(This week: verb PERDRE – to lose)





Today, I’m starting a little series of articles regarding French manners and etiquette.

It has been my experience that most people are quite surprised when I mention that there is such a thing as an etiquette code that my friends and I learned when we were in our teens.

When crossing cultures, it is quite normal to see differences in social etiquette, of course, but knowing that most of us would like to be accepted, to blend in when we go to Paris, I’m bringing you the survival kit, to be considered de bon ton.

Let’s get started, shall we?

The French, like all people, share a number of codes and conventions that govern individual behavior in social life. These codes are called politeness, « savoir vivre », good manners or etiquette. These codes of behavior facilitate relationships between individuals, they help to create social harmony. They also define what is expected, allowed or prohibited in certain situations, dictate the obligations of each party to the social hierarchy, between men and women (gallantry) . Often, they also help “locate” an individual in relation to the standard: ignorance or knowledge of certain protocols in fact reveal a lack in education, or the contrary, qualities.

Find out if your manners are good enough for Paris

You must respect time. Punctuality is an essential act of etiquette. If you have a rendez-vous in the street or in a public place at a specific time, you must arrive on time; the maximum tardiness that is tolerated is five minutes. If it is a business or a professional appointment, a doctor’s or dentist’s appointment, it is recommended to arrive five or ten minutes earlier. The French have a reputation of being late often; whether it’s true or false, being late is always considered rude.

In France, we refrain from calling after 22:00 hours on the phone (10 pm), except when calling close friends.

Spitting in the street is strictly prohibited. Belching in public is very rude. Yawning without covering your mouth, nose or sneezing loudly are also considered very bad behavior.

In the street, there are special passages (before the red lights or not) that pedestrians use to cross. To not use crosswalks, also called « les clous » or « passage clouté », is frowned upon, although in France this code of conduct is far from being respected.

When using public transportation (bus, train, subway), it is customary to offer your seat to an elderly person, a pregnant woman, or a person with a child.

In an elevator, in public transportation, or in the street, you do not stare at people. Staring at a person is considered very rude. Speaking loudly to a person who accompanies you or when on the phone is also frowned upon.

At the end of a meal, it is normal in France to share the bill equally among all the guests, unless one of them wants to pay everything. However, it is still customary at a dinner for two, that a man pays for the woman who accompanies him, even if this is less common among young people.

In a line, you have to be orderly like everyone else and wait patiently for your turn. It is extremely rude to overtake someone or come directly to the counter to handle your business. Those who allow themselves to have this behavior will earn a sanctioning gaze, or will be verbally admonished.

We must say “thank you” when we receive something , when someone provides us with a service. If you receive a gift, it is not rude to open it immediately. However, we can do it after a conventional short sentence : “Is it OK to open it right away? “. Even if the gift is not to your liking, or is not what you expected, you do not show your disappointment.

You may be either shocked or relieved – better yet, not at all surprised. In either case, it would be nice to learn some French, in order to easily assess when to use the right etiquette for the situation that you find yourself in. 🙂

(Inspired from


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Now it is your turn!

Tell us in the comments below, what is the one French manner that you never see yourself taking on?


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Photo credit: Tatyana Markovtsev, A.G. photographe

1. Are you French-manners ready? (Good and bad manners)

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