France is one of the most popular destinations for English travelers as is our closest neighbour on the continent but despite the familiarity with the country there are still many foibles that travelers should be aware of. We've put together a little list of 'things you need to know' when traveling to France!
Learn Some French
The French have always looked down their noses at the English, mostly because of our arrogant belief that everyone else in the world should learn to speak English. In some parts of France you’ll find people will refuse to speak in English to you, even if they are fluent. Apart from it being polite to try a little of the local language, you’ll forge friendships much more quickly, especially if you make hilarious mistakes. As many brits were taught some French at School, there is no excuse not to at least try as it's the lack of effort that seems to frustrate the French.
Watch out for the Food!
If you don’t learn the language, another mistake you’re likely to make is to eat something you probably wouldn’t have if you’d known the name for it. Watch out for ‘escargot’ ‘grenouilles’ and ‘cheval’ or you’ll be chewing on snail, frog and horse. With the little French I know, I thought I was safe ordering 'le boef' from a menu in a very rural French restaurant, when it arrived, it was indeed beef as I imagined, however not quite the cut I had hoped for. I prested with a huge cows tongue!
A bizarre contretemps between British driving rules and those in France means that not only do you have to travel around them the wrong way but often, but not always, you have to let people join the roundabout, giving way even though you’re already on it. The opposite applies when you see the sign ‘Vous n'avez pas la priorite’ on the approach road. You may also find in some parts of France – mainly the rural parts, that traffic from a minor road has priority in joining a main road and so you’ll be travelling along quite merrily and find someone shoots out of a side road right into your path.
Kissing as a Greeting and Farewell
You may think this would be easy, one kiss on each cheek and you’re well and truly introduced but it’s an etiquette minefield. Men and women can kiss women but men don’t kiss men unless they’re family or really close friends. Sometimes no one kisses and you’ll only know when someone offers their cheek that they want to be kissed. Which cheek depends on which part of France you’re in whilst the number of kisses depends on part of France and how well you know the person. Confused? Even Thomas Cook had to bring out a guide on how to do it properly, making the Freudian slip of calling it The French Kissing Guide!
It’s Illegal to Cover Your Face
A rather strange one that has sprung from the backlash on immigrants. In order to make people behave more like the French, it’s now illegal to wear any form of head gear that obscures the face. Primarily meant to forbid hijabs, it now covers any kind of mask too. One can’t help wonder whether people can get away with not wearing a motorcycle helmet for the same reason and Halloween will never be the same!
We hope you find the above tips useful if you are planning a holiday to France, and of course if you need to hire a car hire France
, we can find you a great deal from car hire in Nice to car hire Bordeaux Airport
, just make sure you know the rules around breathalyzers in France
, but you'll be pleased to know that all of our rentals include these.