VISITING FRANCE

The main thing to remember when visiting France, is to always take that extra time to greet people properly. Whether the hotel clerk or the taxi driver, the cashier or someone who you meet in the lift.

 

You must start any encounter with ‘Bonjour Madame or Monsieur’, or else you will be considered to be an uncouth tourist. To use correct etiquette will earn you a lot of respect. If you follow this with ‘Ca va?’  (Sah-vah – How are you?)  you will earn wings.

The only time this becomes frustrating, is when you are in a queue in a shop or grocery store.  You will notice all the people in front of you, will have a conversation and slowly load up their bags while the clerk waits patiently.  Then they dig around in their purses for the correct money, pay and slowly collect their bags…as the queue grows and grows…

In pastry shops, as much care and attention will be taken putting the food in a box, closing the box, wrapping it in paper, putting it in a plastic bag, taking the money…  I suggest you just enjoy the people watching experience.  Maybe we have become too fast in our own little worlds.

 

Everything is about appearance and outward image.

French women wouldn’t be seen dead in shorts or track pants. Clothes are never showy or trashy. They are expected to have regular beauty appointments, massages and to always stay slim and fit, right into old age.  If your husband doesn’t point out that you should bypass that helping of dessert, then your mother in law surely will.  They are also expected to be skilled cooks, who can throw a three course meal together in an hour.  Food is seasonal and fresh.  Men generally wear pressed shirts and are clean shaven, even on days off. They rule the roost and worship their mothers.

 

Their kids must go to the right school and their behaviour is polite and respectful.  Schooling is regulated, and if a child is falling behind the documented expected norm, the parents will receive a note from the school, telling them what action will be taken to correct this. The curriculum is set in stone and very academic. This carries into family life, where outings may be to museums or galleries.

 

To move into a small town, it is essential that you impress and get on with the mayor.  He has the power to make or break you.  He grants all your licences and agreements that you need to live a normal life.  They do have glorious lives with a high emphasis on food and time off.  The government issues lunch cheques, which they can put towards buying their afternoon meal. It can be a long lunch with two or three courses and wine, before returning back to work.

Every Frenchman is a farmer at heart and returns to the rural family nest as often as possible. One good time to visit is during the lengthy summer holidays; for a lot of businesses is the month of August.

 

French restaurants often offer the ‘Plat du jour’, or dish of the day.  The food will be fresh and locally sourced.  It will be two or three courses and most probably wonderful!  They like rich sauces and cooking with all parts of an animal. It is good to use a translator just to make sure you haven’t ordered the lungs of a young cow, or sheep testicles; but even if you do, I can assure you they will be beautifully cooked.

When dining out, always keep your hands in view by resting your wrists on the table.  If you put them in your lap, that is the French equivalent of picking your teeth with your knife.

A basket of sliced up baguette is normally brought out, along with a carafe of tap water.  Do not eat it until the food arrives.  This is when you hold the bread over your plate so the crumbs don’t go everywhere, and tear off a bite size piece. Put the remaining bread on the table (never on the side of the plate).  The bread is used to assist the fork, and eaten once it is used.

Wine is the heart of French dining, and is not associated with getting drunk.  You have a glass to accompany your lunch or dinner.

 

Watch for the three tier system.  If you order for instance, a coffee, and drink it standing at the bar, it might cost one euro. If you order that same coffee and sit down at a table, the price will go up slightly. If they have outside seating and you chose that, the price goes up again.  All prices should by law, be listed on a menu, which is usually displayed on the wall beside the bar.  It will have the 3 tier listing.

 

For all it’s quirks, France works well as a country.  It has lovely scenery, fabulous cities and elegant, educated people, which all make for a great holiday destination.  Just don’t forget to say hello first.