In this article, you will:
- Discover the essential rules of politeness in France
- Learn how to behave properly in French restaurants
- Understand why it's important to speak (a bit of) French in France
- Grasp the importance of speaking at an appropriate volume
- Find out which topics to avoid during a conversation with the French


This article will help you answer the following questions:
- What cultural mistakes should you avoid in France?
- How can you integrate well in France?
- What are the faux pas to avoid in a French restaurant?
- Why is it crucial to make the effort to speak French?
- Which topics are considered indiscreet or taboo in France?




❌ What not to do in France:

Politeness is a very important value for the French. We do not like rude people. It will not go well with the French if you are rude. However, I grant you, the French themselves are not always polite. But if you want to integrate well in France, you must be polite.


✅ What to do in France:

Here are some basics of politeness you must absolutely follow when you are in France.

  • Say “Bonjour” as soon as you enter a store or a public establishment.
  • Say “Bonne journée, au revoir” as soon as you leave a store or a public establishment.
  • If you approach someone on the street or in a store, always start your sentences with “Bonjour, excusez-moi,…
  • Always say “S’il te plait” when you ask for something and “Merci”.
  • Use “Vous” and not “Tu” with people you do not know or know very little, especially in a formal context.
  • Do not use the imperative with someone you do not know or know very little.

I have already heard people tell me “Répétez, s’il vous plait!”. Yes, that's good, there is “S’il vous plait!”, but the imperative “Répétez” is quite rude. Rather ask a question: “Can you repeat, please?”




❌ What not to do in a restaurant in France:

It is often said that the customer is king, but not in French restaurants. French restaurants are special, there are many cultural codes and politeness to respect. You must address the waiter or waitress in a certain way.


✅ What to do in a restaurant in France:

Here are some tips to avoid appearing disrespectful in a restaurant in France.

  • Do not call the waiter “Garçon!”, it is no longer done in France. To address the waiter or waitress, say “S’il vous plait” or “Excusez-moi” and formulate your request.
  • If your dish is not right or not good, I admit it is quite delicate to send a dish back to the chef. Try to find a middle ground, if really your dish is cold or it's not the right one. You can ask for it to be reheated or changed, but be very polite in your request. Do not start sending back your dish for a minor reason, in general the restaurant staff does not like it very much.




❌ What not to do in France:

It is known that the French are attached to their French language and like it when you make an effort to speak French in France. It is not well seen that a foreigner in France addresses only in his language without making the slightest effort to say a few words in France. Of course, we do not expect you to be bilingual in French, but here is what you can do.


✅ What to do in France:

It is already important that you know basic words or phrases in French: “Bonjour”, “Au revoir”, “Bonne journée”, “Merci”, “S’il vous plait”, etc. It is normal that you cannot speak about everything in French in France. But, if you cannot say something in French, do not switch directly to another language. Apologize and explain. The French will understand and see that you made an effort to speak French, and they will make an effort to speak in your language. It's a win-win. If you make an effort, even a small one, the French will also make an effort.




❌ What not to do in France:

The French appreciate discretion, so it is preferable to keep a low voice in public establishments. It is frowned upon in France to shout or speak very loudly during a discussion or on the phone. We do not like people who stand out or who are too much in France.


✅ What to do in France:

If you are in a public place in France, speak in a normal way, without shouting, adopt a tone and a soft voice when addressing the French. Too aggressive a tone can be misinterpreted by a French person.




❌ What not to do in France:

There are topics that you should avoid discussing with the French especially if you do not know them well or at all:

  • Intimacy
  • Religion
  • Money
  • and politics

Intimacy, is everything related to love and sexual life, it is generally not a topic that is easily addressed. Only with very close friends.

France is a secular country, so religion is considered something that is part of private life and unique to each individual. One does not ask someone's religion in France out of respect for privacy.

Money is a very delicate subject in France. You do not ask someone how much they earn or how much their house or car cost.

And politics, it's complicated. The French talk a lot about politics among themselves, but it is a topic that can often end in disagreement or dispute. Better to avoid.


✅ What to do in France:

I advise you not to bring up topics: intimate life, religion, money, and politics with the French unless they are your friends or you are confident with them.




❌ What not to do in France:

It's a great paradox. The French love to criticize their own country, but they hate it when foreigners speak ill of France. Yes, I know, it's very contradictory, but that's how it is.


✅ What to do in France:

If you speak to a French person and they criticize France, listen to what they are saying, but do not start criticizing France yourself. It would be frowned upon and they might get offended.