French Culture


  • Greetings are important in France. Thus, it is necessary to greet others correctly to make a good impression.
  • Handshakes are the norm in a business setting or with acquaintances. It is expected that you will shake hands with everyone present when arriving and leaving. 
  • Among friends and relatives, the most common greeting is the ‘la bise’ (kiss on both cheeks). The la bise consists of placing one’s cheek against another’s, making a kiss noise, then repeating it on the opposite side. A la bise is sometimes accompanied with an embrace.
  • People generally kiss twice during a la bise; however, this varies depending on the region in France. In this instance, follow your French counterpart.
  • One should remove their sunglasses and/or hat when doing a la bise.
  • Respect is shown in verbal greetings by referring to the person as ‘Madam’ (‘Ms’) or ‘Monsieur’ (‘Mr’).
  • Though previously the title ‘Madam’ referred to a married woman and ‘Mademoiselle’ referred to an unwed woman, this practice is no longer commonplace. Instead, ‘Madam’ is the title used to address any woman, regardless of her marital status.
  • In formal contexts or when speaking to elders, use last names and appropriate titles until you are invited by your French counterpart to move on to a first-name basis. It is important to acknowledge someone by their academic title (if relevant).
  • In a formal setting, addressing someone by their title always precedes any conversation or request (e.g. “Madam, would you like a drink?”).

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