French Culture

Greetings

  • 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,” (‘Mrs’) “Monsieur” (‘Mr’) or “Mademoiselle”. Madam is only used to refer to a married woman, while Mademoiselle is reserved for unwed women.
  • 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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