3 Very French Practices


When you move to another country, even one that is as physically close to your home land as the 21 miles of English Channel that separate the UK from France, you soon learn that there are MANY differences that you need to accept.  Having taken holidays in France before we moved here, I knew that I'd have to drive on the other side of the road, that the entire country stops for a 2 hour lunch break and eating snails is de rigour .... but there are other pracrtices I was not at all prepared for including these three totally random and unrelated things ...

1.  That weird French Handshake

If you are not on kissing terms with someone you meet (and that is a whole other blog post waiting to be written!) then in all likelihood you'll be on  hand shaking terms.  So far so good.  But sooner or later you'll greet someone who has dirty hands - the man at the garage being my first encounter and instead of offering me his hand he offered me his wrist with his hand firmly clenched.  So what was I supposed to do now??  Turns out I am meant to shake his wrist which I can tell you feels odd, awkward and plain wrong.  But that's the French way so that's what I do now.

Clenched fist

2.  Dunking Croissants

Now, in fairness, I have never been a great one for dunking biscuits of any sort with only a ginger nut, in my humble opinion, sufficiently hard to warrant a quick dunk in my tea.  But the French have a whole different take on things and will quite happily dunk a croissant in their morning tea, coffee or hot chocolate.  Well I am sorry - that is simply wrong and I don't think that is ever a habit I will take up.  Oh and cake - they dunk cake too!

Croissant an espresso

3.  Signing off Letters

The French love paperwork, form filling and more paperwork.  They also love ending their letters with the most ridiculously long sign offs.  Now in the UK we might use "Yours sincerely" for even the most formal of letters but the French use all of these, depending who the letter is addressed to:

  • Veuillez recevoir, Monsieur/Madame, nos salutations distinguées  - Please accept, Sir / Madam, our best regards.
  • Je vous prie d'agréer, Monsieur/Madame, l'expression de mes sentiments respectueux - Accept, Sir / Madam, the expression of my respectful sentiments
  • Veuillez agréer, Monsieur/Madame, l'assurance de notre parfaite considération - Please accept, Sir / Madam, the assurance of our full consideration
  • Je vous prie de croire, Monsieur/Madame, à l'assurance de mes salutations distinguées - Please accept, Sir / Madam, the assurance of my best regards

Thankfully for semi formal letters or those between friends, Cordialement (Regards) or Bisous (Kisses) will suffice!

 Latter writing

So have you come across any acts in France that you find really odd but are totally normal for the French?  Please do leave a comment with the things you find hardest to get you head round.


Lou Messugo