Greeting Etiquette in France

Many friends are following my Always Harriet Facebook page and know that I am writing about French words during the month of January.  We all know many French words and use them in our daily speech. In fact, I bet you know more French than you think. (Bonjour, Fromage, à la carte)

Some people are concerned about traveling to places where the language is different. Traveling in France is easy. While some still think the French are distant,  I have never found so.  To help understand the French culture, here are a few travel etiquette suggestions to help in the communication.

The etiquette may vary depending on whether you are in a business or personal setting. And just the same as here in the US, it will also depend on whether you are interacting with close friends or strangers.

During you travels to France, you will no doubt need to meet or greet some people prior to asking them for their help. Like many Americans, the French commonly greet each other with a handshake. This is typical behavior between two or more people who are meeting for the first time.

As a sign of respect, it is also customary to only call people by their first name if they have invited you to do so. If not, call them by their last name until you are given permission otherwise. Once you have become friends with someone, however, and can call them by their first names, it is customary to greet those persons by kissing them lightly on the cheeks. The French kiss the left cheek and then the right. This is important if you wish to avoid accidentally kissing your new friend on the lips.

As far as entering or exiting public buildings and stores, you are expected to give a general greeting to whomever works there. You can say bonjour in the morning and bonsoir at night upon entering and au revoir upon leaving. Always follow these phrases with the appropriate honorific title Monsieur or Madame.
(Credit to for information)

About alwaysharriet

With thirty years experience in corporate and leisure travel consulting, Harriet Ahouse has traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean and worldwide. An avid scuba diver, she understands the requirements of travelers both on land and in the water. On the European scene she has offered traditional and personalized travel itineraries throughout the continent--Italy, France, and England are some of her favorites. As a Virtuoso Agent, she also has extensive resources to enhance her expertise in designing individual destination travel itineraries--and honeymoons--worldwide!
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2 Responses to Greeting Etiquette in France

  1. Patsy Cushing says:

    Thank you, Harriet, for explaining these rules of etiquette. Having lived in France, I am all too aware of that particular cultural roadblock. I would caution travelers even more firmly than you do that to not use “Bonjour M/Mme” when you approach anyone (whether it be for directions, or to place an order at a restaurant, or when entering their place of business) is to court trouble: it is, for the French, unacceptably rude and presumptuous.

  2. says:

    Some truly interesting info, well written and broadly user friendly.

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