Parisian Language and Culture: A Guide for International Visitors

Parisian Language and Culture: A Guide for International Visitors
Ever wondered how to prepare for your trip or move to Paris? This guide is for you! Whether you’re a tourist, expat, or someone who is simply passionate about France, you can learn practical tips on how to adapt to life in France, where to go if you need help, and some “survival French” phrases that are a must-know in various situations.  French Customs La Bise  La bise (kisses on each cheek) is one of the most well-known customs in France. Whether you’re meeting someone for the first time or known them for years, expect la bise!  There are a few rules when it comes to this greeting. First, several different places follow this tradition, but not everyone does it the same. In Paris, for example, I’ve found that most people start on the left cheek and only give two kisses. In other parts of France and in other countries, they may start differently or give multiple kisses. In addition, la bise is often given according to gender. Men give la bise to women; women give la bise to women; and women give la bise to men. Men do not generally give la bise to each other, and it’s more common to see them shaking hands or bumping fists. If you’re ever unsure of someone’s gender or prefer not to do la bise, a simple handshake or fist bump usually works just as well. As everyone did during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the French found alternate means of saying hello, so many are understanding if you prefer to avoid la bise. But be cautious about giving hugs—some French people, especially those you don’t know well, will feel uncomfortable with a hug. Inès de la Fressange boutique on rue de grenelle, Paris Say “Bonjour” When You Enter a Shop  When you enter any store or building, you should greet the shopkeeper or receptionist with a friendly “Bonjour.” This applies to clothing stores, boulangeries, museums, gyms, offices…you name it, you should say hello! If you follow this important tradition, people are more likely to be polite to you because you were polite to them and showed them that you understand and respect their traditions.  As you leave a shop or building, be sure to say “Merci” and/or “Au revoir.” You can add a “Bonne journée” in if it’s during the day, and “Bonne soirée” if it’s in the evening.   

Lead photo credit : Photo by: Fabien Maurin/Unsplash

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Jill Amari is a writer and environmental activist from Massachusetts, USA, now living in Paris. She has a B.A. in English and is a passionate writer of short stories, poems, songs, blogs and novels. She is currently querying her first YA fantasy/sci-fi novel, and her day jobs include tutoring and freelance writing. After studying in Paris for four months in 2022 and having returned in summer 2023, she has found no end to the inspiring nature of the capital and the charm of French culture. You can follow her journey on Instagram or on her website