French Etiquette is a really important thing to know before coming to France. The French have some strict rules of conduct in most spaces so knowing some basic French manners will save you tons of time and embarrassment. Especially in places like the metro, stores and restaurants, there are some formal rules to know so you ensure that you are respecting the French and their culture. From tipping to greeting people in stores, all these pointers will ensure a smoother experience in France!
If you’re a foodie traveling to Paris, make sure you have a copy of our Eating in Paris Guide which has over 100 of Pais’ best restaurants plus our favorite food shops and tips for dining out!
Here are some of our top French Etiquette rules to know before coming to France:
Top French Etiquette Rules
Say “Bonjour” when you walk into any store or restaurant
When walking into a store, restaurant or bar, it is extremely important that you greet the people in the establishment. Saying “Bonjour” (or Bonsoir, in the evening) is both polite and an opener to your interaction with the waiter or shop assistant. Very often if you don’t say it, the attendants will not greet you, seat you or serve you. This is especially true in restaurants. Even if you don’t speak French, you should still open with a simple ‘bonjour”, it will go along way! Also, make sure to also say “Au revoir” when leave!
Talking Loudly … anywhere
The French are quiet people especially after certain hours and on the metro. So, to make sure you don’t get told off for being too loud, try and keep the volume down in most places. You will quickly notice how quiet the metros and buses are even in cities like Paris and being loud on them is seen as a nuisance to people who are just trying to get to work or home peacefully. As for where you are staying make sure to not speak too loudly or have any loud music playing after 10 pm, you will either have a confrontation with an angry neighbor or they will call the cops. Better to keep everything at a lower volume in France!
Tipping in France
Do you tip in France? This is perhaps the most common question among travelers and it can be confusing. French waiters receive a minimum wage and the bills include a service charge. So, it is not obligatory to give a tip. However, it is a way of saying that you appreciated good service. There is not a set amount so you can give as little or as much as you want. Typically a good tip is considered anywhere between 10%-20%. An important thing to note is that tips are not included in your card payment so it will have to be in cash. If you want some more tips on dining etiquette check out our article on restaurant manners in France.
Metro and Bus Etiquette
While on the bus or metro you will notice signs asking people sitting to give their seats to elderly, disabled or pregnant people. This may seem like a very obvious thing to do but often tourist forget about this. Especially, in the midst of trying to figure out the transport system and where they are meant to go. It is also important to note that if you are sitting on the seats near the doors of the metro when it is crowded, you have to stand. This is so more people can get in.
Drinking in Public
Drinking in most public spaces in Paris is legal. So, whether you are having a picnic at the Tuileries, the Luxembourg gardens or by the seine, you can accompany your snacks with a great bottle of wine. Drinking on any public transport though is prohibited and being publicly intoxicated is illegal. Especially when it becomes a nuisance to others. So, try and not to get too rowdy and loud after some drinks.
Other (Weird) Things that are Prohibited in France:
Swimming in Fountains
Feeding Pigeons (which can result in a fine up to 450€).
Crossing the Street when the sign is red (4€ fine).
Drinking at work, except it if its wine, beer or cider.
Calling your pet pig Napoleon.