Travel Tips to Save Your Vacation to France

Travel Tips to Save Your Vacation to France

Common Courtesies

The key to understanding the main cultural difference that exists between the French and the rest of the world is the word “guest.” In the United States it is considered good service for the shop keeper or store employee to greet the customer, but in France it is just the opposite. Cafes, bistros, boutiques, hotels, and even supermarkets and department stores are considered to be private spaces in France. For this reason it is expected that the guest, or customer, will be the first person to offer a greeting, just as if we were entering someones’ home. So when entering a building in France, look at the shopkeeper or hotel clerk, smile, and say “bon jour.” When leaving the establishment we are expected to say “au revoir.” After six in the evening replace both bon jour and au revoir with “bon soir,” unless it is very late at night, in which the final bon soir can be replaced with “bon nuit.” France is a very polite society, we are also expected to say please (S’il vous plait). Here are the definitions of those useful phrases.

Bon jour: Good day.

Bon soir: Good evening.

Bon nuit: Good night.

Au revoir: Goodbye.

S’il vous plait: If you please.

Proper Attire

In addition to being polite, France is also a more formal society than the United States, with the sartorial consequences that come with being less casual. In other words, shorts, ripped jeans, t-shirts, flip-flops, and white sneakers are best left indoors. David Lebovitz, a well-known chef and cookbook author currently residing in Paris, tells a story in his latest book, The Sweet Life in Paris, of the moment he realized he had truly become a Parisian. He was lounging in his apartment, dressed in his comfortable, laid back attire, when he needed to take his trash downstairs. He promptly showered, shaved, and put on his Sunday finest to walk the few steps from his front door to the elevator, then outside to the trash receptacle and back again, a journey of less than a few dozen steps.

Try to Speak the Language

You may have heard that the French are quick to pounce on someone mangling their native tongue. That is only partly true. They are proud of their language, and will in fact correct any grievous errors in pronunciation, but make no mistake about it: they will absolutely love you for the effort. A cheap pocket phrasebook from Berlitz has kept many a visitor in the good graces of the French on numerous occasions.