The Ultimate Guide to French Culture

The Ultimate Guide to French Culture

Written by Martha Lott
Written by Martha Lott
21st May 2018 (Last updated on Monday 21st May 2018)

Moving to France is a dream for many Brits. The idea of benefiting from warmer climates, the famous French cuisine and wine is a pull that gets hold of many. For those that have visited the country, you will have likely experienced some unusual, confusing or even exciting differences in the culture. These differences are one thing for those visiting France, but for those that are exploring living there they can be daunting.

That is why Compare My Move has put together this article to act as a guide to French culture. Long before arranging your removals to France, this article will help you understand some of the major differences and similarities between the UK and France. We will also give some advice on what you can do to fit in with others in France and touch on some subtle cultural nuances of different areas within the country.

Cultural Differences Between France and the UK

Every country in the world has their own unique culture. Some aspects of these will be similar to those you would expect to find in the UK, but some will certainly be unusual and different. In this section we explore some of the cultural differences and similarities of France compared to the UK.

Food Culture in France

Of course, we are going to kick this off with the culture that France is best known for, its world-class food. The eating culture is very different to what you would expect to find in the UK. For example, unlike in the UK where meal times are flexible and snacking between meals is very common, in France meal times are more set and snacking between meals is rare.

Lunch is also considered as the most important meal of the day, with an event often being made of it. In fact, recent surveys showed that the French take the longest lunches in the world. Another difference you will often see with French eating, especially lunch, is that it is a social occasion where it is rarely eaten alone.

Working in France

In terms of working hours you would expect to see those similar to what you find in the UK with most working from around 8am–9am to 6pm, although as we previously mentioned a longer lunch break might be expected in many areas of the country.

Work rights in the country are of a high priority and it is common for many industries to go on strike in support of bettering working conditions. This approach saw a landmark piece of legislation introduced in 1998 which reduced the working hours to 35 per week. This change saw a decrease in unemployment and increase in job sharing.

Values in France

When you start regularly talking to French people you will notice quickly that they are incredibly proud of their country. This is worth noting as it easy to offend them if you speak badly of their nation or government. The French truly live their motto of "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité" and arguably put the biggest emphasis on equality, taking huge pride in living in an equal and fair country.

Common French Stereotypes Explained

French Waiters are Rude

A 2012 survey by Sky Scanner showed that the users considered the French people as the rudest in the world. This stereotype is typically associated with the surly nature of waiting staff, which is likely so obvious due to the friendly nature of waiters in other countries.

Although the approach of waiting staff in France is certainly different to those in the UK, it shouldn’t really be considered as rude. A large part of why the French approach is different is due to the fact that in the UK waiters are often young part-time workers. In France on the other hand, being a waiter is widely pursued career, so they take their job a lot more seriously and offer a much higher level of service.

The French Make Great Food

It is undeniable that French food is world famous. Many of the world’s best chefs, most renowned restaurants and most loved dishes are all located in or have their origins in the country. Many food fanatical tourists visit various parts of France from all over the world to experience their incredible food. This is certainly one of the best founded French stereotypes.

The French are Romantic

In popular media, the French are often depicted as an overtly romantic people. However, this is not necessarily true depending on what you define as traditionally romantic. People that live in France are actually not well known for being expressive about their emotions and rarely open up to others until they know them very well.

Practically, this means that if you expect public declarations of love, songs being sung from the heart and being showered in lavish gifts then this stereotype may disappoint you.

Different Cultures Within France

Just like we see between geographic areas in the UK, different areas in France see a number of different cultural norms.

Parisian Culture

Paris is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. This along with its position as a hub of business within Europe has led to the city having a widely differently culture to the rest of the country.  For example, unlike the majority of France that takes long relaxed lunch breaks, the city of Paris takes a more universal approach to work and rarely sees lunch hours extending beyond an hour. It is also widely accepted that the French people in Paris are widely more ‘grumpy’ than the rest of the country, although this is often put down to commuters and visitors not really enjoying the faster and less personal way of life.  

South France

The culture in the south of the country in contrast is much more relaxed than in Paris. This is likely because of the disconnection from the international business hubs in the capital as well as the year-round warmer weather that they experience. A Mediterranean outline both in terms of food and lifestyle, South France is certainly a slower speed of life.

French provincial towns and rural regions enjoy cultural and linguistic differences across France, but a distinct pride in the nation as a whole and its shared values is noticeable in France.

We explore different areas in our guide to the best places to live in France, which includes housing costs and unique information about 7 areas throughout France.

How to Adapt to French Culture

Despite the stereotypical cold nature of the French people, they are actually very accepting of those that make the effort to fit in with their culture and customs. One way in which you can do this is by learning at least the very basics of the French language and make the effort to use it when you meet new people.

Doing some research on the French culture such as reading this guide and undertaking further reading will put you in a good position to understand their way of doing things and will go a long way to helping you fit in.

Compare My Move in France

We hope this article has helped you  on your journey to moving to a new home in France. If you're looking for further reading, check out our comprehensive guide to moving to France from the UK, which will answer many questions you have about the moving process.

If you're looking to settle down in France after a lifetime of working in the UK, check out our article on how to retire to France. When you're well researched and ready, remember to use Compare My Move to save up to 70% on your removals to France. Just fill in a quick and easy form, and get connected with up to 6 local removal companies to take you door to door to you new life abroad.

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