Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

France Facts & Trivia: 10 Things Foreigners Should Know


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Coretta Moses



Welcome to the captivating country of France, known for its rich history, vibrant culture, and breathtaking landscapes. Whether you’re planning a trip or simply looking to expand your knowledge, there are a few key things about France that every foreigner should know. From the language and cultural etiquette to the world-famous cuisine and iconic landmarks, France offers a truly unique experience that captures the hearts of millions.


France, located in Western Europe, is a country that has played a significant role in shaping the world as we know it today. It is renowned for its contributions to art, fashion, literature, gastronomy, and more. The official language is French, spoken not only in France but also in various other regions around the world. French culture is deeply rooted in traditions, and understanding their customs and etiquette is essential to fully appreciate the country’s charm.


In this article, we will explore ten essential aspects of France that every foreigner should be aware of. From the exquisite culinary delights and world-class wine to the unforgettable landmarks and cultural celebrations, we will take you on a journey through the enchanting realms of France.


So, whether you’re dreaming of sipping wine at a sidewalk café in Paris, exploring the stunning beaches of the French Riviera, or indulging in the flavors of French cuisine, sit back, relax, and join us as we delve into the fascinating world of France.


Language and Communication

The French language is the soul of France, and while you can get by with English in major cities and tourist destinations, having a few basic French phrases up your sleeve will go a long way in making connections and showing cultural respect.


French is a Romance language, with its roots in Latin. It is spoken not only in France but also in countries such as Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, and parts of Africa. Learning simple greetings like “Bonjour” (hello) and “Merci” (thank you) can make a positive impression and open doors to friendly interactions.


One interesting aspect of French communication is the use of “tu” and “vous” for addressing others. “Tu” is used when speaking to friends, family, or young people, while “vous” is used for formal or respectful situations. It’s always safe to start with “vous” and wait for the person to invite you to use “tu.”


It’s worth noting that French conversations can be more formal and follow certain etiquettes. For example, it is customary to greet each person individually with a handshake or a kiss on the cheek, depending on the region. Interrupting someone while they’re speaking is considered impolite, so it’s best to wait for your turn to speak.


In addition to spoken language, be mindful of body language and gestures. French people tend to use more hand and facial expressions, emphasizing their conversations. Avoiding excessive hand gestures and maintaining good eye contact can help you blend in more easily.


While English is commonly understood in tourist areas, especially by the younger generation, don’t assume that everyone will speak it fluently. Having a pocket-sized French phrasebook or using language translation apps can be incredibly helpful, particularly when venturing outside major cities.


Embrace the opportunity to learn and practice French during your time in France. Locals will appreciate your effort, and it will enrich your overall experience, allowing you to connect with people on a deeper level.


Cultural Etiquette

Understanding and respecting cultural etiquette is essential when visiting France. French people take pride in their traditions and appreciate those who adhere to their customs. Here are a few key cultural aspects to keep in mind:

  1. Punctuality: In France, punctuality is highly valued. It is considered polite to arrive on time for social events, meetings, or appointments. Arriving a few minutes early is even better, as it demonstrates respect for the other person’s time.
  2. Bonjour and Merci: Greetings and good manners go a long way in French culture. Begin conversations with a warm “Bonjour” (hello) and use “Merci” (thank you) frequently to show appreciation. Saying “S’il vous plaît” (please) when making requests is also considered polite.
  3. Dress Code: The French take fashion seriously, so it’s worth dressing neatly and stylishly. Casual attire is generally acceptable for everyday activities, but when dining out or attending more formal events, it’s best to dress up a bit.
  4. Dining Etiquette: French cuisine is renowned worldwide, and understanding dining etiquette is vital. When dining in a restaurant, it is customary to wait to be seated. Keep in mind that dinner conversations tend to be lively and passionate, but avoid speaking too loudly. Also, it is considered impolite to start eating before the host or other guests begin.
  5. Cultural Boundaries: Personal space is respected in French culture, so be mindful of maintaining an appropriate distance when conversing. Invading someone’s personal space may make them uncomfortable. Additionally, it is essential to respect religious and cultural sites, dressing modestly and behaving respectfully when visiting churches and other places of worship.
  6. Tipping: Tipping in France is not as customary as in some other countries. However, it is common to leave a small tip, usually around 5% to 10% of the total bill, especially if you received excellent service. Check the bill to see if a service charge has already been included.

Embracing these cultural etiquette tips will help you navigate social interactions in France and show respect for the local customs. The French appreciate visitors who make an effort to understand and embrace their cultural norms, enhancing the overall experience of your trip.


French Cuisine

French cuisine is celebrated worldwide for its elegance, sophistication, and unparalleled flavors. It is a true culinary delight that should not be missed during your visit to France. Here are some iconic aspects of French cuisine to tantalize your taste buds:


Bread and Pastries: French bread is a staple in every French meal. The baguette, with its crispy exterior and soft, chewy interior, is an iconic symbol of French cuisine. Additionally, French patisseries are renowned for their delectable pastries like croissants, pain au chocolat, and macarons. Make sure to indulge in these freshly baked treats from local boulangeries.


Cheese: France is famous for its incredible variety of cheeses. From creamy Brie and tangy Roquefort to nutty Comté and soft Camembert, there’s a cheese to suit every palate. Take the opportunity to explore local fromageries and savor the distinct flavors of French cheese paired with a glass of wine.


Wine: France is synonymous with wine production. It is home to some of the world’s most esteemed vineyards and winemaking regions. From crisp Sauvignon Blancs of the Loire Valley to robust Bordeaux blends and renowned Champagne, there’s a French wine to complement every meal. Consider visiting vineyards and wineries for wine tastings and gain insight into the art of French winemaking.


Classic Dishes: French cuisine offers an array of classic dishes that have become culinary treasures. Indulge in Gougère (cheese puffs), Coq au Vin (chicken in wine), Ratatouille (vegetable stew), and Bouillabaisse (fish soup) to experience the depth of flavors and techniques that have made French cuisine legendary.


Michelin-Star Dining: France is home to some of the world’s most prestigious Michelin-starred restaurants. These culinary temples serve dishes that are masterfully crafted and beautifully presented. While dining at a Michelin-starred establishment can be expensive, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for food enthusiasts seeking gastronomic perfection.


Outdoor Markets: Visiting local outdoor markets is a must-do for food lovers in France. These vibrant markets offer a sensory feast of fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, charcuterie, seafood, and more. Engage with the friendly vendors, sample regional specialties, and immerse yourself in the vibrant food culture of France.


French cuisine is not just about the food itself, but also about the dining experience. Meals in France are typically enjoyed slowly, with emphasis on savoring each bite and engaging in lively conversation. So, take your time, indulge in the flavors, and embrace the art of French gastronomy.


The Art of Wine

France is known as the birthplace of wine and boasts a rich history deeply intertwined with the art of winemaking. From its prestigious vineyards to expert winemakers, France offers a wine culture that is unparalleled. Here are some key aspects of the French wine scene:


Wine Regions: France is home to numerous world-renowned wine regions, each with its own distinct characteristics and grape varieties. Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Alsace, and the Loire Valley are just a few examples of regions that produce some of the finest wines in the world. Each region has its own unique terroir, climate, and winemaking traditions, resulting in diverse and exceptional wines.


Classification System: France has an elaborate classification system that helps identify the quality of wines. The most famous classification system is the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, which ranks Bordeaux wines based on their quality and reputation. This system has become a benchmark for other wine-producing regions in France.


Wine Labels: French wine labels can be daunting to decipher, as they often emphasize the region of origin rather than the grape variety. Understanding the labeling system can help you navigate the vast array of options. Look for terms like Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) or Vin de Pays (VDP), which indicate the classification and quality of the wine.


Food and Wine Pairing: In France, the art of pairing food and wine is taken seriously. Each wine is thoughtfully associated with specific dishes to enhance the flavors and overall dining experience. Whether it’s a bold Bordeaux with red meat, a crisp Sauvignon Blanc with seafood, or a sweet Sauternes with foie gras, the French have perfected the art of finding the perfect wine companion for every meal.


Wine Tourism: Exploring the vineyards and wineries of France is a must for wine enthusiasts. Many wine regions offer tours and tastings, allowing visitors to delve into the world of winemaking. From walking through vineyards and learning about grape cultivation to cellar visits and guided tastings, wine tourism in France is an immersive experience that offers insight into the passion and craftsmanship behind each bottle.


Wine Festivals: France celebrates its wines with vibrant and lively wine festivals throughout the year. These festivals offer the opportunity to taste a range of wines from different regions, accompanied by local food specialties. A visit to a wine festival is a delightful way to experience the conviviality and celebration of French wine culture.


Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or a novice enthusiast, immersing yourself in the art of French wine will undoubtedly enhance your appreciation for the complexities and pleasures found in every bottle.


Fashion and Style

When it comes to fashion and style, France is synonymous with elegance, sophistication, and timeless allure. French fashion has long been revered for its influence and craftsmanship, making it a global trendsetter. Here are some key aspects of the fashion and style scene in France:


Haute Couture: France is the birthplace of haute couture, the pinnacle of fashion design. Paris, specifically, is considered the fashion capital of the world and is home to legendary fashion houses such as Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Givenchy. Haute couture garments are meticulously crafted, hand-sewn, and tailored to perfection, using exquisite fabrics and embellishments.


French Chic: The French have mastered the art of effortless chic. From the classic Breton striped shirt and tailored blazers to well-fitted jeans and ballet flats, French style is often characterized by simplicity, clean lines, and an understated elegance. The key is to invest in high-quality basics and focus on impeccable fit rather than following fleeting trends.


Designer Shopping: France is a paradise for fashion enthusiasts, offering an abundance of designer boutiques and luxury department stores. Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris is a must-visit destination for luxury shopping, housing iconic brands and flagship stores. Additionally, Galeries Lafayette and Printemps are renowned department stores offering a wide range of high-end fashion and accessories.


Street Style: French street style is celebrated for its individuality and ability to seamlessly blend timeless classics with modern trends. The streets of Paris particularly showcase an array of fashion-forward individuals who effortlessly exude style and confidence. Observing street style can provide inspiration for embracing your personal fashion journey.


Vintage and Thrift Shopping: France is also a treasure trove for vintage and thrift shopping. From vintage boutiques in Paris to local flea markets, you can find unique and one-of-a-kind pieces that embody the spirit of French style. Uncover hidden gems, breathe new life into vintage fashion, and embrace sustainable fashion choices.


Accessories and Fragrance: French fashion extends beyond clothing to accessories and fragrance. French women are known for their love of scarves, sunglasses, stylish handbags, and quality footwear. Perfume is also an integral part of French culture, with many iconic perfume houses originating from France.


Embracing French fashion and style is about cultivating a sense of confidence, expressing your individuality, and focusing on quality rather than quantity. Finding your own interpretation of French chic will not only enhance your personal style but also allow you to immerse yourself in the world of fashion that France is famous for.


Famous Landmarks

France is home to numerous iconic landmarks that have captivated the world with their beauty and historical significance. From architectural marvels to picturesque natural wonders, these famous landmarks showcase the rich heritage and cultural diversity of the country. Here are some must-visit landmarks in France:


Eiffel Tower: No visit to France is complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. This iconic symbol of France stands tall as a masterpiece of ironwork and offers breathtaking views of the city from its observation decks.


Notre-Dame Cathedral: Located on the Île de la Cité in Paris, Notre-Dame Cathedral is a Gothic architectural marvel that has played a significant role in French history and literature. Its stunning stained glass windows and intricate details make it a must-see landmark.


Palace of Versailles: Just outside of Paris, the Palace of Versailles is a testament to the opulence and grandeur of French royalty. This lavish palace features awe-inspiring architecture, beautifully landscaped gardens, and the famous Hall of Mirrors.


Mont Saint-Michel: Situated on a rocky island in Normandy, Mont Saint-Michel is a picture-perfect abbey surrounded by tidal waters. Its unique location and medieval architecture make it one of France’s most iconic landmarks.


Le Louvre: The Louvre Museum in Paris is the world’s largest art museum and a historic monument. Housing renowned works of art, including the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, the museum is a cultural treasure trove that should not be missed.


Palais du Pape, Avignon: The Palais du Pape, or Palace of the Popes, is a magnificent Gothic palace located in the historic city of Avignon. It served as the residence of the popes in the 14th century and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.


Mont Blanc: Located in the French Alps, Mont Blanc is the highest peak in Western Europe and a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. It offers breathtaking panoramic views and opportunities for hiking, skiing, and mountaineering.


Château de Chambord: Situated in the Loire Valley, the Château de Chambord is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture. This grand castle with its intricate details and expansive grounds is a testament to French artistic and architectural prowess.


Pont du Gard: The Pont du Gard is a magnificent Roman aqueduct bridge located in the southern region of France. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a feat of ancient engineering and offers a glimpse into the impressive Roman legacy.


French Riviera: The French Riviera, or Côte d’Azur, is a glamorous coastal region known for its sparkling azure waters, luxurious resorts, and vibrant nightlife. Destinations like Nice, Cannes, and Saint-Tropez are popular for their sun-drenched beaches and stunning Mediterranean backdrop.


These famous landmarks are just a glimpse into the rich tapestry of France’s cultural and natural heritage. Exploring these iconic sites will immerse you in the history, artistry, and natural beauty that make France a truly remarkable destination.


French Holidays and Traditions

France is a country that loves to celebrate and preserve its rich cultural traditions. From national holidays to regional festivities, the French calendar is filled with vibrant events that showcase the country’s history, customs, and joie de vivre. Here are some notable French holidays and traditions:


Bastille Day: Bastille Day, or La Fête Nationale, is celebrated on July 14th to commemorate the French Revolution and the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789. It is a day of national pride, marked with fireworks, parades, and festive gatherings throughout the country.


Christmas: Christmas is celebrated with great enthusiasm in France. Families come together for a festive meal on Christmas Eve, exchanging gifts and indulging in traditional delicacies like foie gras and bûche de Noël (Yule log cake). Midnight Mass is also a significant part of the Christmas traditions.


Easter: Easter in France is celebrated with various customs, including egg hunts and the ringing of church bells. One unique tradition is the flying bells, where it is believed that the church bells fly to the Vatican and return with chocolate eggs to distribute to children.


Epiphany: Epiphany, or La Fête des Rois, is celebrated on January 6th to mark the visit of the Three Kings to baby Jesus. It is customary to eat a Galette des Rois, a delicious puff pastry filled with almond cream, and whoever finds the hidden figurine in their slice becomes the king or queen for the day.


Mardi Gras: Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, is the last day of revelry before the Christian season of Lent begins. In France, the cities of Nice and Dunkirk are particularly known for their vibrant Mardi Gras parades, elaborate costumes, and lively street celebrations.


Pentecost: Pentecost, or La Pentecôte, is celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday and marks the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Jesus. It is observed with religious processions, church services, and outdoor festivals in various regions of France.


Regional Festivals: France is known for its rich regional culture, and each region has its own distinct festivals and traditions. From the Festival of Lights in Lyon to the Carnival of Nice and the Wine Festival in Bordeaux, these regional celebrations offer a glimpse into the unique traditions and customs of different parts of the country.


French holidays and traditions are a blend of history, religion, and cultural heritage. Embracing these celebrations provides a deeper understanding of French culture and allows you to partake in the joyful spirit that pervades the country throughout the year.


Sports and Recreation

Sports play an integral role in French culture, with a wide range of activities that both locals and visitors can enjoy. From iconic sports like football to engaging in outdoor adventures, France offers a diverse array of recreational opportunities. Here are some popular sports and recreational pursuits in France:


Football: Football, or soccer, is the most popular sport in France. The country has a rich footballing history, boasting successful national teams and world-class players. Attending a football match or watching the French national team compete can be an electrifying experience.


Cycling: France is a cyclist’s paradise, known for the legendary Tour de France. Cycling enthusiasts can follow in the footsteps of their favorite riders and explore picturesque routes, such as the challenging climbs of the French Alps or the scenic landscapes of Provence.


Tennis: France has a strong tennis tradition, hosting prestigious tournaments like the French Open at Roland Garros in Paris. Watching a live match or even playing a game at one of the many public tennis courts throughout the country is a great way to experience the sport.


Water Sports: With its extensive coastline and breathtaking beaches, France offers a variety of water sports. Surfing in Biarritz, sailing in Brittany, kiteboarding in Essaouira, and diving in the Mediterranean Sea are just a few options for those seeking aquatic adventures.


Hiking and Mountaineering: France’s diverse landscapes provide ample opportunities for hiking and mountaineering. From the picturesque GR20 trail in Corsica to exploring the magnificent peaks of the French Alps, adventure seekers can revel in the stunning natural beauty of the country.


Winter Sports: France is renowned for its world-class ski resorts, attracting snow enthusiasts from around the globe. Destinations such as Chamonix, Courchevel, and Val d’Isère offer exceptional skiing, snowboarding, and other winter activities against the backdrop of breathtaking alpine scenery.


Pétanque: Pétanque is a beloved French game played with metal balls on a sandy surface. It is a leisurely and sociable activity often enjoyed with friends and family in parks and town squares. Joining a game of pétanque can provide an authentic taste of local culture.


Golf: Golf enthusiasts will find a wide range of scenic golf courses in France. Whether teeing off on a coastal course in Biarritz or playing amidst the vineyards of Bordeaux, golfers can enjoy the sport in picturesque surroundings.


Engaging in sports and recreational activities in France not only allows you to embrace a healthy and active lifestyle but also provides an opportunity to connect with the locals and immerse yourself in the country’s sporting culture. So, whether you’re cheering on a football team, cycling through breathtaking landscapes, or simply enjoying a game of pétanque, France has something to offer for every sports enthusiast.


Transportation in France

France has an efficient and well-connected transportation system, making it convenient for travelers to explore the country. Here are some key modes of transportation in France:


Trains: Train travel in France is highly regarded, thanks to the extensive network of national and regional trains. The high-speed train, known as the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse), connects major cities, allowing for fast and comfortable travel. It’s advisable to book train tickets in advance, especially during peak travel seasons.


Metro and Buses: Major cities in France, such as Paris, Lyon, and Marseille, have comprehensive metro and bus systems that provide efficient transportation within the city. In Paris, the metro is a popular choice for getting around, with an extensive network of lines covering the city and its suburbs.


Taxis and Ride-Sharing Services: Taxis are readily available in most cities and can be hailed on the street or found at designated taxi stands. For a more convenient and often cost-effective option, ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are also popular in many urban areas.


Car Rental: Renting a car in France can be a great way to explore the country at your own pace. The road network is well-maintained, and there are several rental agencies to choose from. However, keep in mind that driving in busy city centers may be challenging, and parking can be limited and expensive.


Bicycles: France is known for its bike-friendly culture, and many cities have implemented bike-sharing programs and dedicated cycling lanes. Renting a bicycle is a fantastic way to discover a city at a leisurely pace, especially in areas with scenic routes and parks.


Flights: For longer distances or if you’re looking to visit islands or more remote regions, domestic flights are available from major airports. These flights can significantly reduce travel time, allowing you to explore different parts of the country efficiently.


Ferries: If you’re planning to visit the islands or coastal regions of France, ferries are a popular mode of transportation. They connect mainland France with destinations like Corsica, Brittany, and the French Riviera, providing scenic views along the way.


When traveling in France, it’s essential to check the transportation options available in each region and plan accordingly. It’s also worth considering obtaining a transportation pass, such as the Navigo card in Paris, which provides unlimited access to public transportation within a specific area or duration.


With its well-developed transportation infrastructure, getting around France is relatively easy and allows you to explore the country’s diverse landscapes, vibrant cities, and charming towns with convenience and efficiency.


Helpful Tips for Traveling in France

Traveling in France can be a delightful and enriching experience. To make the most of your trip, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

  1. Learn a Few French Phrases: While many people in tourist areas speak English, learning a few basic French phrases can go a long way in showing respect and making connections with locals.
  2. Validate Your Train Tickets: When traveling by train, be sure to validate your ticket before boarding. Failure to do so may result in a fine if caught by a ticket inspector.
  3. Respect Shopping and Dining Hours: In smaller towns or non-touristy areas, shops and restaurants may close for a few hours during the day for lunch. Plan your activities accordingly and check for any specific opening hours.
  4. Carry Cash: While credit cards are widely accepted, it’s a good idea to carry some cash, especially for smaller businesses, markets, or ticket machines that may not accept card payments.
  5. Be Aware of Pickpockets: As with any travel destination, be cautious of your belongings and be aware of pickpockets, especially in crowded tourist areas and public transportation.
  6. Try Local Cuisine: French cuisine is renowned worldwide, so take the opportunity to indulge in the local delicacies and regional specialties. Venture beyond familiar dishes and explore the diverse flavors that France has to offer.
  7. Respect Cultural Etiquette: Familiarize yourself with French cultural norms and etiquette to show respect for local customs. Greeting with “Bonjour” and “Merci,” avoiding overly loud conversations in public places, and respecting personal space are some basic etiquettes to keep in mind.
  8. Plan Ahead for Popular Attractions: If you’re visiting popular landmarks or museums, consider purchasing tickets in advance or arriving early to avoid long queues and ensure entry.
  9. Take Advantage of Free Museum Days: Many museums and cultural sites in France offer free admission on the first Sunday of each month. Plan your itinerary accordingly to take advantage of these cost-saving opportunities.
  10. Enjoy a Leisurely Pace: Embrace the French concept of “joie de vivre” and take the time to savor your experiences. Enjoy a leisurely meal, explore charming cobblestone streets, and immerse yourself in the local culture.

By following these tips and embracing the French way of life, you’ll ensure a smoother and more enjoyable travel experience in France. So, pack your bags, immerse yourself in the beauty of the country, and create unforgettable memories to cherish for a lifetime.



France is a country that will mesmerize you with its charm, culture, and joie de vivre. From the enchanting streets of Paris to the magnificent landscapes of the French Riviera and the picturesque countryside, France offers a wealth of experiences for every traveler.


Through this journey, we’ve explored the essential aspects of France that every foreigner should know. From the language and cultural etiquette to the world-renowned cuisine, famous landmarks, and vibrant traditions, France truly captivates the hearts of those who visit.


Remember to immerse yourself in the language and embrace the warmth of “Bonjour” and “Merci” to connect with the locals. Indulge in the exquisite flavors of French cuisine, from the delicate pastries to the diverse cheese selection. Marvel at the iconic landmarks that define the French landscape, and join in the celebrations of their rich traditions and holidays.


As you navigate your way through France, be sure to make use of the efficient transportation options available, and take the time to explore the lesser-known regions, where hidden gems await. Respect the cultural etiquette and savor the artistry of French fashion and style, which exude elegance and timelessness.


Ultimately, traveling in France is about embracing the essence of the country – its history, its culture, and its people. Take the time to engage with the locals, immerse yourself in their way of life, and create memories that will last a lifetime.


So, whether you’re strolling along the Seine River, admiring the breathtaking view from the Eiffel Tower, or indulging in a glass of fine wine overlooking the vineyards, let the magic of France transport you to a world of beauty, sophistication, and unforgettable moments.


Bon voyage!