French etiquette: what you need to know

  • 08 June 2015 | Kolosa Vuso
Welcome your guests with a handshake. Image courtesy of

If you are familiar with our tourist toolkit, you will know the French take good manners and etiquette quite seriously. 

In a dining situation, for example, they will cross their cutlery on their plate if they have not yet finished eating or they will leave their wine glasses nearly full if they do not want a refill.

If you are hosting French tourists, always keep the following in mind:

  • When welcoming your French visitors, greet them with a handshake. A kiss on both cheeks is usually reserved for family and close friends
  • When addressing French visitors, rather use their last names as, again, first names are used by those they are more familiar with
  • You could also address them as Monsieur (Mr or sir), Madame (Mrs) or Mademoiselle (Miss) without using last names
  • Find out if they require an interpreter while staying at your establishment as the French often understand English but might prefer not speaking it
  • Before dinner, they would probably prefer Pernod (an anise-flavoured liqueur), Champagne or vermouth. During dinner they will most likely have wine and after dinner they’ll enjoy a liqueur
  • They don’t cut bread, but rather use their hands to break it
  • When serving fruit, make sure there are knives for cutting it
  • The French are renowned for their fashion sense, so take extra care of your appearance and look presentable at all times
  • When giving them flowers or putting flowers in their rooms, stay away from white lilies or chrysanthemums as they are associated with funerals and red carnations as they are often seen as a symbol of bad will
  • Lastly, make sure you have quality wines available since the French are known for their excellent taste in wine