French culture, to say the least, is very different. As a whole, it’s a nation with a sense of refinement that simply isn’t part of the American experience. And that is OK, you will experience these things during your trip and appreciate them for what they are as they enrich you culturally such as a ton of amazing regional wines, foods, and cheeses. France has a very rich wine culture that I think wine lovers anywhere can appreciate. You’ll taste the vast varieties of French cheeses. I had never tried goat cheese until I came here. Believe me it’s amazing. But my favorite aspect of French food is the pastries. You’ll see it all, croissants, pains au chocolat, beignets (French doughnuts), and a ton of different types of tartes!
I think the main difference between American culture and French culture is the way in which people do business and treat commercial relationships. They both have their pros and cons and as a tourist you’ll be faced with situations in which you might not know how to react. So here are a few tips below:
In order to have a successful Paris trip, there is just one thing that I would recommend you do before leaving: learn some basic French phrases. I know you are probably wondering, well what about the rest?! Well that will come once you master the French idea of manners or what they call “politesse.”
As someone who’s been here for a while I can tell that there are basically only two phrases you need to know in order to please the French, and those are “Bonjour” which means hello and “Merci” which means thank you. People here in any field of service basically just want to be acknowledged before being bombarded with questions from a customer. They expect to be greeted. It’s a sign of respect, after which they will proceed to take care of you as a customer.
I’ve had a few experiences in which I would approach an employee at a museum for instance, with a question, and they simply would not let me talk. They kept saying Bonjour, bonjour, bonjour, en France on dit bonjour (in France we say hello) until I realized that he was expecting me to greet him properly before he would even think of helping me. I honestly found it to be quite rude, but after about the fourth time that sort of thing happened to me in different situations I realized it was the only way I was going to get decent service. I’m not saying that I agree with this custom of demanding a proper greeting, but I understand now that it’s the norm and I cannot go against it, because I’ll be the only losing out.
The other important word is of course Merci. Thank you. But this is self-explanatory I hope. It’s the universal way to show gratitude and the French particularly like it. Just like it’s important to greet someone who is about to do you a service, it’s also very important to show gratitude.