As the eve of my journey to France nears (and finding out where my host family lives), I have been focusing much less on my final exams than I should. I’ve done some research, read my fair share of travel blogs, and tried to funnel everything I’ve learned about French and France during my studies. Here is a compilation of the basics, my last minute attempt at Do’s and Don’ts for my three month stay in France!
1. Don’t make eye contact with strangers you don’t want to converse with… especially men.
2. The fingers flat against the lips with eyes open means, “Oops, I made a mistake.” No verbal comment is necessary… I might need to use this one a lot!
3. Visit the same café often to become a regular.
4. Do try to have a conversation with the waiter about the menu. « Qu’est-ce que vous proposez? »
5. Try to taste many wines and get to recognize names on wine lists, as well as my preferences. Certain wines, cheeses, and other foods are particular only to specific regions of France.
6. Be polite and respect the French. “Maintain their dignity and you will establish yours.”
7. Speak softly in public places to respect the privacy of others. No loud Americans here!
8. Participate in all conversations a table, even if it is just an attempt! The French love a discussion.
9. Learn how to accept compliments. “You really think so? I’m glad you like it!” is one response. (Note to self, learn how to say this in French!)
10. Always approach people in the proper way: “Bonjour, Madame/Monsieur.”
11. When speaking with retail shop workers or waiters, I must show patience. They might be short and curt off the bat, but will warm up if I persevere politely and calmly.
12. A key phrase for letting the French know I am very lost and need them to slow down is: Est-ce que vous pouvez parler plus lentement?
Learn French, be brave, eat much and travel often! Bon voyage!