Do’s and Don’ts; Tips for Newcomers to France

April 28 , 2021 by: Tash Boudville

Are you planning on visiting France for a romantic getaway or a business trip? Are you curious to know the basics of French etiquette for Expats, nomads, and digital nomads? Do you want to know the best way to approach a French local and gain their respect? This article is for you.


Why is it important to learn the body language and gestures of the French people? Why is it crucial for Expats and nomads to learn the French body language and gestures? To the French, body language and gestures can determine your attitude and willingness to learn and socialize. 


Keep your body faced to the person with who you are having a conversation. It appears to the French that you are open to the conversation you are having and interested in the topic. To better understand this concept, imagine if you were talking to someone, and they are avoiding facing you and had their arms cross.

Do Not:

Avoid any offensive hand or body gestures such as flicking your hand underneath your chin. This gesture is called the chin flick. To the French, this gets considered as getting lost. Another gesture you should avoid is crossing your fingers

Crossing your fingers known throughout the world is shown as a gesture for good luck. But to the French, it gets considered as the C-bomb word.


Manners, like any other country, are crucial to the French. The French are very polite people and will often help you with your needs, only if you show them respect and learn a little of the French language. You wouldn’t expect someone to be nice to you if you’re being rude or impolite.


If you need to get past someone or if you need to be excused, use Excusez-Moi, Madame, or Monsieur. These manners show the French that you are politely trying to get past them, and it also shows you took the time to learn the phrase.

Do Not:

When in France as an Expat or nomad, avoid saying hello in English or any other language. The French find it extremely rude if you do not greet them as French people would.


To the French, learning their language is a must, and often when visiting as a tourist, the locals-only tend to speak fluent French. 


Pick up a French language learning book before heading over to France and study up on your French phrases. Top phrases to learn are “Excusez-moi“, “Bonjour“, or “Salut“.

Do Not: 

Do not speak your language when speaking to the locals, especially using confusing English words. The French tend to get very frustrated and find it rude that you have not learned their language.

Photo by Nenad Maric on Pixabay

Table manners

Since France is commonly known for its intense French cuisine, it becomes a custom that everyone is mindful of table manners. 


When you are at a restaurant, it shows the French people that you are polite if, once you finish your meal and after every sip of your drink, to wipe your lips or the corners of your mouth with a napkin

Do Not: 

Do not start drinking before everyone else. This gesture comes off as rude and ignorant as someone may want to make a toast. Another must do not call the waiter over to you by snapping your fingers. Lastly, do not have your phone out on the table.


When it comes to paying in France as an expat or nomad, it may seem easy to whip out some cash. But in reality, the French typically use card payments more often, although they will still accept money if needed. The dominant payment methods in France include debit/credit cards and checks. 


Tip the waitress/waiter. This tip is not a must. But the French people will appreciate the kind gesture. 

Do Not: 

Do not talk about money when having a conversation. It appears to the French people that you are boasting and come off snobby.  


Clothing is a highly regarded etiquette of France. Especially for an expat or nomad, it shows the French people what you are about and how you present yourself. In short, appearance is everything. 


Dress for the occasion. If you are going to work, wear formal suits, formal work dresses, and pants suits. 

Do Not: 

Avoid underdressing. Do not come to work in casual clothes. This attire shows the French that you are not ready to work and your mind is wandering elsewhere. However, if you are coming to France for a holiday, you can wear whatever you want. Typically the locals will understand.

Business etiquette

Business etiquette is crucial to expats and nomads who seek employment within France. There are many things that will grab your employers attention, and these things include:


Address other employers and superiors as Madame or Monsieur. This etiquette shows a sense of formality, and it gives the French people good first impressions of you.

Do Not: 

Avoid being any later than 10 minutes of your agreed meeting time. Another crucial business etiquette you should avoid is the French do not talk business during lunch hours unless you are on a business lunch. The French people like to keep their personal life and business life separate. 

Personal space

The French are not so big on personal space, and you will find that they will tend to invade your personal space due to being comfortable. This gesture seems pretty transparent since the French greet each other with a kiss on the cheek. However, avoid taking advantage of their personal space and make them feel uncomfortable. 


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