french gallantry

french gallantrySo do you know how to dance?

You know, it is the man that leads the lady!

Do you know how this came to be?

The answer may surprise you, which is why I wrote the article below!

Check it out for some must-know tips, and watch the video for a French lead!

(This week: verb CONDUIRE – to drive/lead)





This is the 6th episode of our series of articles regarding French manners and etiquette.

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.

Is this forgotten art or decrepit tradition?

The “French gallantry” is a national pride. It mainly concerns the relations between men and women. Its origins are ancient, dating back to medieval courtly customs, by which the knights had to honor, serve and protect their lady.

Gallantry reveals a certain paradox: while women generally suffer an inferior status in civil society, mainly dominated by men, they enjoy however, in the worldly sphere and sometimes home, a high position, in truth, essentially conventional.

A gallant man opens the door for a woman to pass before him. However, if it is a public place, like a bar or casino for example, the man usually precedes the woman who accompanies him, perhaps to ensure that it is safe or suitable .

In the street, the man walks on the curbside (the “upper hand”) of a woman, to protect her from potential risks that may come from the street.

At the station, the airport, it is the man who takes care of the heavy luggage, it will help to assemble the bags of a woman, to be placed in the compartment of a train.

In a staircase, a man walks before a woman when going down, to help her in case she falls. He must also precede her when climbing: he can not help her if she stumbles, but for obvious reasons, he will not want to embarrass a woman by following her upstairs.

At the restaurant, a man slightly pulls the seat to invite a woman to sit. Men should wait for women to be installed before sitting down themselves.

A man compliments a woman without affectation on her way of dressing, her elegance: “You are beautiful tonight”, “This color fits you perfectly”. She will thank with a smile, accepting the compliment.

The man serves drinks to the woman who accompanies him, offer her the dishes first, pays the bill at the restaurant.

A man helps a woman to remove her coat, or to put it on. He leads her to the door, or better yet, to her home. If he accompanies her by car, he will open the door for her before getting in himself. When arriving at the destination, he comes down from the car to open the door for her first.

How natural would be for an American to follow these little rules? Of course, both parties may feel equally awkward: one to perform and the other to receive – graciously.

Is there a need for such a norm? Maybe there is, for obvious social reasons, to smooth the way during a rendez-vous, even if they feel a little artificial.

Yet, with the right company, these little gestures may come naturally – on both sides – and the extent to which one goes in performing them will vary based on the intuition of what could work best.

It is, however, of great value to know them, in order to better adapt to the situation when we have to behave in a certain society where this code is expected.


Next step:

learn French and make friends – I’ll bet you’ll teach everyone around the subtleties of the French gallantry.

(Inspired from


Immerse yourself as you FINALLY reach your dream of becoming bilingual, learn to speak Parisian French and BREAK your language barrier!


Now it is your turn!

Tell us in the comments below, which one of the French gallantry codes of conduct feels unnecessary, and which one feels like coming home?


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Photo credit: Tatyana Markovtsev, A.G. photographe

6. Are you French-manners ready? (French gallantry)

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