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Center for International Studies
Member, Texas Tech University System The Princeton Review - 373 Best Colleges, 2011 Edition

Musée du Louvre, Paris, France / The Louvre Museum, Paris, France

France

French Society and Culture

France is known for its rich cultural heritage in art, architecture, music, language, cuisine, and of course fashion. the population has diverse origins and is home to people with various ethnic backgrounds including Celts, Romans, Germans, Russians, Asians, Africans, North Americans and recent immigrations.

France’s cultural heritage dates back thousands of years and is as old as the country itself. French people are known worldwide for their sophisticated approach towards life, combined with great concern for style, fashion and appearances. France has been an important cultural center of the world for many centuries, with Paris being the hub. Even today, France contributes greatly to the fashion culture of the world.

Etiquette and Customs

Meeting Etiquette

  • Men initiate handshakes with women.
  • At social meetings, shake hands with everyone present on arrival and departure. Handshakes may be quick with a light grip.
  • Family and close friends often greet each other with a kiss on both cheeks.
  • Last names and appropriate titles should be used unless invited by your French host or friends to use their first names. Only close friends and family use first names.
  • Address people as Monsieur, Madame or Mademoiselle without the surname.
  • You are expected to know academic titles and degrees and use them properly.

Gift-Giving Etiquette

  • Gifts should be of high quality and wrapped beautifully
  • Do not give gifts of six or 12, gifts of odd numbers specifically 13, chrysanthemums or red roses or wine unless it is exceptional quality.
  • Do give candy, cookies, cakes and flowers.
  • If invited to someone’s home, always bring a small gift for the hostess. Try to send flowers the morning of the party. If not present a gift to the hostess upon arrival.
  • Gifts to the hostess will most likely no be opened immediately unless no other guest are expected or present.

Dining Etiquette

  • Wine is always served with meals and liqueurs are served after dinner.
  • A female guest of honor is seated to the right of the host. A male guest of honor is seated to the left of the hostess.
  • Do not start eating until the host or hostess have begun.
  • Wait until toast has been proposed before you drink wine.
  • Keep your hands on the table at all times through the meal, and try to keep your elbows off the table.
  • Fold your salad onto your fork by using your knife. Do not cut your salad with a knife or fork.
  • Always break bread with fingers.
  • Place bread on table above your fork.
  • Cut cheese vertically. Do not cut off point of cheese.
  • Fruit should be peeled and sliced before eating.
  • Almost all food is cut with a fork or knife.
  • Cross your knife and fork across your plate if you would like more food. If finished eating, place knife and fork side by side on the plate at the 5:25 position.
  • Taste everything offered.
  • Leaving food on your plate is impolite.

Quick Facts

Climate: Generally cool winters and mild summers, but more mild winters and hot summers along the Mediterranean. There is an occasional strong, cold, dry, north-to-northwesterly wind known as mistral.

Population: 65,821,885 (2011 estimate)

Ethnic Make-up: Celtic and Latin with Teutonic, Slavic, North African, Indochinese and Basque minorities.

Religions: Roman Catholic, 83 percent to 88 percent; Muslim, 5 percent to 10 percent; unaffiliated, 4 percent; Protestant, 2 percent; Jewish, 1 percent.

Government: Republic

Languages: French, the official language, is the first language of 88 percent of the population. Most of those who speak minority languages also speak French.