French Podcast Transcripts

How to be polite in French

How to be poilte in French? In this episode, discover how to behave politely in France.

D’abord, la politesse… Oui la politesse … c’est très important…..très important… very important…. France is an odd country: you will find really formal and polite people and some others can be on the side of rudeness…. Why is it? Culturally being formal, reserved, and unsmiling is seen as being respectful in France… On the other hand, and also culturally, some other people will find that being direct, outspoken, and loud is also a way to be French.. what do I mean? That French have both sides, and what you see as rude, is not seen as a big deal by some French…

#1 Polite behaviors in France

The good news is French agree on some wordings and manners you should know and follow absolutely:

  • Eye contact is not seen as rude. Actually, French expect you to look at them when talking.
  • People don’t bow, and women don’t shake hands. You can just move your head to greet someone.
  • Women can interact freely with male staff.
  • What about the cheek kissing?? Only if someone engages you with cheek kissing. Do not start cheek kissing people you don’t know!!
  • French don’t hug… They will really freak out!!
  • Smiling is seen as not respectful so don’t expect people to smile at you.
  • Same with friendliness: Don’t expect anyone to small talk with you and start to introduce themselves.
  • Don’t spit in the street. Don’t spit, this is really shocking for French.
  • With waiters and waitresses = Always address the waitstaff with respectfulness. They might seem formal and unfriendly to you, but again, formal and reserved is being polite in French.
  • Wait for them to come to your table
  • Do not scream ‘Garçon’ to call a waiter… Not only this is inappropriate but also you will wait much longer…

#2 French expressions to use when being polite

For all interactions (with salespersons, clerks, hosts, asking directions, etc…)

Always start by greeting with ‘Bonjour Monsieur’ or ‘Bonjour Madame’ or ‘Bonjour Mademoiselle’ (please not you DON’T pronounce MA DE MOI SELLE, you say ‘Mad Mwa Zelle’)

Always address someone with EXCUSEZ-MOI …. EXCUSEZ-MOI…. EXCUSEZ-MOI… Even if you you are the client and they a clerk or a salesperson, ALWAYS start with EXCUSEZ-MOI. French are really sensitive to that….

Do not speak English without asking first.
Ideally: Excusez-moi, and then you can say ‘Do you speak English’ but by now, as the great listener that you are, you know that ‘Parlez-vous anglais’ means do you speak English? Parlez-vous Anglais… Let’s repeat… make this little effort to speak correctly, you will be proud A with a short high pitch open mouth…Parlez-vous anglais….

Then, most importantly… always finish with PLEASE… S’il vous plait…. S’il vous plait… (if you please in English)… S’il vous plait..

How to ask politely for something? In French to say I would like or I’d like, we say :”I would want: JE VOUDRAIS… Let’s try Je (not DJE), je voudrais… I know ‘DR” is hard, keep practicing… JE VOUDRAIS…..

And now very important to thank ! First, in France, do not bow, just say ‘MERCI’ … or ‘JE VOUS REMERCIE’.. JE VOUS REMERCIE… I thank you…. Je vous remercie ….
And if you need to say ‘YOU ARE WELCOME’…. JE VOUS EN PRIE…. JE VOUS EN PRIE … or DE RIEN…. DE RIEN (of nothing)

So let’s recap, expect French to be on the formal side, and not too friendly.. they can also be direct and outspoken…ALWAYS say ‘Bonjour’, ‘Excusez-moi;, S’il vous plait’, and ‘Merci’.. and interact with staff by using these words.