French Customs and Manners



When first arriving in a foreign country (that you know nothing about), everything seems strange and incomprehensible. Much that you have taken for granted, for years, is now unacceptable or misunderstood. Although learning a country's customs takes time and experience, here are some helpful tips to get you started:



Counting: If you want to signify the number 'one', use only your thumb. The index finger and thumb held up together means 'two'. If you signal with just the index finger, the French will be confused and probably think that you mean 'two'.

Snapping your fingers at a person is considered rude. One or several fingers circling at the temple means FOU (crazy). Holding one's nose with a closed fist and faking a turn is like saying "IL EST SAOUL (He's drunk)".

Pulling the right cheek downward at the eye means "MON OEIL" (my eye - I don't believe it). Shaking the right hand fingers in front of the chest means great surprise, positive or negative, and is often accompanied by the words "OOH LA LA" or a puff of air through closed lips.

Holding fingers flat against the lips with eyes open means "Oops, I made a mistake."

The finger tips rubbing together with the thumb up, as if one were feeling fabric, means "CHER" (expensive). Using the back of fingers to stroke the right cheek as if feeling a beard means "QUELLE BARBE" (What a beard - What a bore). Both hands up in front of the chest with palms out mean "JE NE SAIS PAS" (I don't know).


For many more French customs and manners,

The Roadahead
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