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Cultural notes on the French
by Joseph Gatt
2018-12-27 08:24:10
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Every French man or women are an entire world to themselves. But here are some cultural notes on the French in general.

-We in the US tend to be a happy bunch who are rather hard to irritate. The French on the other hand are easy to irritate. Here's a list of things that irritate them.

-One, you're not supposed to openly notice anything conspicuous that they are doing. If you go to their house, don't openly speak about their furniture, the pictures on their wall or the items presented. If at a gathering, don't make remarks on the food they order, the way they dress or the persons they happen to be with.

fr001_400-Two, don't ask questions. If they mention something and you want clarifications, forget what they said and move forward. They might mention a trip to Israel and you might be tempted to ask them “are you Jewish?” Don't. They might mention they have an appointment with the doctor and you might be tempted to ask “is everything OK?” Don't.

-Three, when with a French group up, don't be conspicuous. You might join a group of people, but you want to quietly listen rather than talk. Only talk when you are invited to talk. Once you stand there with the group long enough you will eventually be allowed to talk.

-Four, keep your food and table manners. Only eat meals at the cafeteria, don't bring meals to the office or classroom. If you want to eat alone, lock the door, and make sure all traces of food disappear once you are done eating. Don't eat food in the streets, don't chew gum in public. Know the difference between “appetizing alcohol” and “digestive alcohol.” Serve or order pasties, wine or champagne before eating, whisky, cognac or gin after eating. Don't order whisky before you've had your meal. Eat everything with a spook or fork; don't touch food with your hands, and pace yourself while eating.

-Five, the French are elitist. Don't bring a friend with you to a party, unless you are convinced that friend is of the same rank as everyone else. The French rank almost everything (how much money you have, your ethnicity, what school you went to, what job you have, your connections) so don't be surprised if they only allow you to talk to people of equal rank at social gatherings. Basically if you are black, they might make sure you mingle with other black people at the social gathering. I get offended by this, but that's the way the French work. The French would be offended if you introduced them to someone of inferior rank.

-Since a lot of French celebrities and tycoons are of foreign ethnic descent, the French like to invent themselves ethnic origins. They may be 100% French, but will claim to be North African, Jewish, Eastern European, Southern European or different ethnicities. There's a belief in France that celebrities and tycoons did not get their status through hard work, and that their ethnicities helped them a great deal.

-Bizutage or newcomer hazing. When you start working for a French company, a lot of times you will be bullied. Bullying includes inviting almost everyone except you to a party, withholding information from you, talking about you without allowing you to respond, systematically rejecting your proposals, systematically forcing you to do you work over, refusing to have meals with you, and in some cases violent forms of hazing including yelling at you or pushing you around, or perhaps sending viruses to your computer. This is why a lot of French people get their first job in the UK, Canada or the US before they move back to France in their thirties.

-Lack of empathy. Left-wing parties are big in France, including Communist or radical left-wing parties. But most join such parties for personal advancement purposes rather than for empathy purposes. The French rarely openly discuss big social problems or try to solve them.

-Three things the French never discuss: family, money and religion. Three things the French discuss: their job, the media and politics.

-Finally, the French dislike discussing details of any particular project or in any aspect of conversation. Learn to include as many details as possible in as few words as possible. Did I mention the French will interrupt you and change the topic the minute you start mentioning details?

-Finally, finally, we in the US tend to believe in consistency and linear flow of information. The French don't. I once went to a conference on labor unions, and the presenter spent his whole allotted time to discussing French food in Southern France. I once went to a conference on modern music, and the presenter spent his entire allotted time discussing the correct ways to be polite. You get the idea. And, I once played a soccer game where the referee ended up replacing a team member and playing for our team, while still refereeing.

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