Do's and Don'ts: Politeness


How to be as Polite as a French Person

I know that there is a stereotype out there saying that French people are very rude, but they just get that from the Parisians. And even the Parisians have a line that they don't cross. Yes they may bump into you or say things frankly, but French culture has politeness deeply rooted in it. It is a value that you teach children at a young age and everyone makes sure that these unspoken rules are followed.


Don't forget to call someone monsieur or madame. It is a sign of respect and is polite to say thank you sir or have a good day madame. And it is more common to call people Mr. John, Mrs. or Ms. Jane. It is expected that at any age, you don't call people by their first names unless you are particularly close with them. People always call each other monsieur or madame, even if they are being attacked or robbed. I saw it the other day, a man screaming arretez monsieur! Even in danger they are still polite!


Do say bonjour monsieur or bonjour madame when walking into a store. It is a sign of politeness to say hello to everyone in the room when walking in. You don't need to go up to each person individually, but by walking in and saying a general bonjour will be sufficient enough. Even at the laundromat saying bonjour is expected.


Don't cut in front of the elderly. Everyone is expected to treat the elderly with respect. In the metro, make sure to give up your seat for an older person. Allow them to get in front of you in line. And never, never push them out of your way. Even if it is an accidental should bump. People will go out of your way to teach you that lesson.


Do hold the door open for the people behind you. Even if they are a few seconds away, it is polite to wait a few seconds with the door open. Even the busy parisians do this. I have not once had a door slammed in my face. The same goes for the metro doors. Sometimes we just rush right in and get stuck, and every time someone is always there to help out. Whether it is the doors hit you so hard that you almost fall out and the guy pulls you inside (actually happened to me) or your bag go stuck in the doors in your leap of faith and three guys use those muscles to pull the doors open to get your bag unstuck.


Don't think that because some people don't compliment you or that they don't hug you means that they are being rude or don't like you. Most French people are not big huggers and compliments are earned, not just given for no reason. So if you're friends with some french people, don't take it as a sign of rudeness.


Do say hello before starting a conversation or asking a question. It is a way of being nice and friendly and treating people as people, rather than expecting them to just serve you whatever it is that you're asking for. And always say please and thank you.

So there you have it, some of the main things about French politeness that is observed everywhere in France, including Paris. And while many people think of them as rude, politeness is always expected, unless someone is being rude to you.

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