The Culture of France

A friend once said, “What’s not to like about the culture of France? France has the most amazing food, the most amazing wine, and the most amazingly beautiful language.” Not to mention an ancient history, and incredible art.

Artists and the like are highly esteemed in France. The government funds the arts countrywide ensuring a thriving artistic contribution to the country and the world. Artistic experimentation is supported and encouraged.

Pont Neuf by Pierre Auguste Renoir

Do you have a favorite French painter? 

The Musee du Louvre Paris France houses the work of Famous French painters from the 13th century to 1848.

Music is a thriving aspect of French culture.

The Culture of France


The French are proud of their language. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that everyone speaks English in France. This is most definitely not the case especially in small villages and rural areas. Major tourists spots will most always have English spoken by someone.

So what do you do if you don’t speak the language? Stay in the major tourist areas but if you want to be adventurous, go beyond the tourist spots and bring along a phrase book and try.

Even if you sound god-awful they will appreciate your efforts and may even help you out. You can’t offend if you have goodness in your heart and you try.


As with any culture different from our own there are French customs and ways of behaving that are unique to France.

When I was 22 years old and just out of University, my boyfriend who was French invited me to visit him and his family who lived just outside of Paris. It was an exciting adventure. I was plunked down in the middle of a culture so different from my own New York/New Jersey USA life up to that time.

Things have changed in France over the years but the differences I discovered remain the same: Good food is very important, the family is very important, the houses are not overheated in the winter, there are certain ways to behave and comport yourself, and once you’ve chosen a career that is your career for life.

Holidays in France - Customs & Traditions

easter in france

Easter in France

bastille day traditions

Bastille Day Traditions

christmas traditions in france

Christmas Traditions in France

The Culture of France


It is a custom of French culture for example, that when shopping one always says “bonjour madame/monsieur” when you enter a shop upon seeing the shopkeeper. If you don’t you will get a stony stare!
All people in France are considered equals. The people that work in the shops want to make sure you know that they are not your servants. The customer is not always right.

Food and Wine


France is the only country in Europe that includes northern and southern Europe in its boundaries. Which is why they are able to grow such a diversity of food.

I was astonished at 22 to find that the family of my friend thought nothing of buying expensive pâté de foie gras aux truffles (goose liver pate with truffles). It was Christmastime and it was one of their French traditions. At home it would never have been part of the budget let alone that it would never have been found in rural NJ.

Uncle’s view from his table

My uncle who lives in Paris is on a pension and yet he has very good, pricey Champagne in his wine cupboard. It was purchased through a friend who has some connection to someone who can get it in the first place. Champagne is served before dinner in France. Uncle serves it with ladyfingers. A great way to enjoy champagne!

It used to be that the French always ate well but unfortunately not anymore. Life has sped up, the cost of food has risen and fast food has eked its way into the culture even at the evening meal. Quelle despair!

However, the French still highly value a good meal and you may often find a family on Sunday enjoying their traditional Noon dinner. I could never understand why my French in-laws always have our family holiday dinners at Noon and now I know why. (Kinda early if you ask me)

When time permits a beautiful home cooked meal is still highly valued and still an important part of the culture of France even if its everyday occurrence has changed.

The Culture of France

Quimper Cathedral's famous rose window

Primarily Roman Catholic yet hardly anyone of that group goes to church. Only 9% go regularly.  Christmas in France and Easter in France are still celebrated even if they don’t show up to church.

Many couples don’t bother to get married. The government gives couples living together the same tax status as married couples.

Married or not, family is very important.

There is no Ms. in France. You are Mademoiselle if you are single, even if you are 92 yrs old, or Madame if you are married. I presume if you are living as a couple you are called Madame. I hope some allowances are made for modern life. Women are feminine and sexy even if they are feminists. Legally, women are equal to men.

Business Culture
In the past one always addressed a business associate with the formal “vous” and never addressed them by their first name. Today, that is changing. My husband remarked recently that in technology companies he has noticed people are addressing each other with the informal “tu” and using first names.

Culture of France

Every French citizen at home and abroad has the right to a French education. If you live in France, it is paid for by the government up to and including University. Universities are highly competitive and once you choose your track you do not change.

Abroad, the French government will assist you with the tuition at the Elyees that exist, usually in major cities. In the past the government paid all the tuition but today they will pay a portion based on your financial need.

Intellectualism is important and critical thinking is taught in school at an early age. Tests and exams require essays for their answers, not multiple choice.

Culture of France
August – Holiday time for all

Summer holiday, 4 weeks or more. Some shops and restaurants are closed for the month. Parisians and those elsewhere head to the south of France and to Brittany.

A throng of French tourists is just as annoying as a throng of any other nationality, in my opinion. So if you don’t want throngs, visit during other months. However, the summer offers all the wonderful festivals that you don’t get the rest of the year and there is an air of fun in the air.

  • Christmas in France is a big holiday and it's a wonderful time of year to go for no tourists and money saving travel.

French cultures
Each region has its own unique culture and the country has it’s own culture that permeates all the regions.

Café in Paris

The Culture of France

Paris culture is different from its surrounding provinces. It is said that the major cities of the world, New York, London, Paris, etc. have more in common with each other than they have with their own surrounding country.

Breton dancers taking a lunch break

There's an interesting site created by a Frenchman married to an American living in Paris created as a guide to better understanding cultural differences.

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