The Culture Guide: 5 Things You Should Not Do When Visiting France

France is a big country with over 67 million people, and each person seems to do things in his or her way. And yet, there is a French way, practiced by all of them. You can respect your hosts on your visit to their country by not doing these five things.

Changing Your Restaurant Meal

In a French restaurant, only one person rules. And it isn’t you or any other customer. The chef reigns and he works hard to bring you the benefit of his craft by perfecting the combination presented before you by the waiter.

So don’t you dare make any change to what you see on the table before you. And that includes holding the onions because their taste is too strong, substituting low-calorie anything for the fattening parts of a dessert, or having the salad dressing on the side. And don’t even think about asking for ketchup to use on any part of the food.

Talking Loudly

The French value privacy, discretion, and civility. They do not like loud talking, particularly on cellphones, or noisy behavior. They do not eavesdrop on other people but can only do that if you keep your conversations to a quiet level. Speaking respectfully with a lowered tone will garner a better response than if you raise your voice. On public transportation, respect others’ privacy by maintaining your personal space and being quiet.

Speaking Only in English

When a foreign tourist visits your hometown and asks you a question in their language, do you just give them a blank stare? So why are you surprised at any French people who react the same way when you start talking to them in English? They’re not being rude. They just don’t know what you’re saying.

Less than 40 percent of the French speak English to some degree. And they are justifiably enamored of their language, which sounds beautiful. So make the effort to learn a few French phrases, so you can initiate any interaction in their language.

Expecting Things to Be Open on Sundays

In America, nearly all the stores, restaurants, and other businesses that serve consumers keep their doors open on Sundays. Not in France. The day is reserved for families, and in many areas, the government forbids businesses to open on Sundays. However, if you do a web search before you arrive, you’ll usually find retailers or eateries that are open on the traditional day of rest. You can then plan on patronizing those establishments on Sundays.

Coming in August

You may be thrilled to be visiting Paris, Marseille, or any other large French city during your summer vacation, but don’t arrive in August. If you do, all you’ll encounter are other tourists who are wondering where all the locales are and why the country seems abandoned.

August is when the French also have their vacations, which they take quite seriously. They’re either abroad or relaxing at Mediterranean beaches. Many of the small and charming shops that you hope to see will be closed then as well because that is when their proprietors are off.