French people have a reputation for their refined manners, although as we will see it’s more a topic than a reality. The kindness of the French is reflected in the long handshakes and kisses on the cheeks. They are, without being Latin, of the most affectionate people in Europe, unlike English and German, much colder and more distant. The well-known French etiquette has made those good manners prevail in society. For this reason, they have been kings for over three centuries in terms of their manners and correct ceremonial behavior. Although society has evolved a lot since the times of the Versailles court, all of them know how to thank a gesture of courtesy.
For example, the ladies, even if it’s the supermarket lady, appreciate being treated as Madame. Normally, everyone is treated like Madame, Monsieur or Mademoiselle, followed by the corresponding name. The French are very ingenious, and that resourcefulness makes them love sharp conversations. They’re also very tolerant, and lovers of the pleasures of good food (not in vain the French have one of the best cuisines in the world).
Although the manners on the table are quite universal, it shouldn’t be a surprise if we see them knotting their napkins around their necks, or grab a bone with their hand or dip the bread in the sauce. In the past, the way to indicate that people were satisfied with their food was to rub the chest with the hand. Also, don’t be surprised if a French waiter brings to you the check without having asked for it. Here is a common practice to put the check on the table as soon as the patron finishes eating.
Another curious courtesy rule is that when children go to school, they are treated in a formal way. Foreigners shouldn’t address a person who hasn’t been introduced. The introductions are like in the rest of the countries, so it should be responded as Je Suis très or Très honoré. If the introduced person is a lady, we will say Mes hommages, Madame (or Mademoiselle, as it were the case). The French are very formal and really values punctuality, so the correct time to get to an appointment is at least ten minutes before. The business cards are usually exchanged at the beginning of any meeting and they really appreciate that the foreigner newcomer honors and tries to integrate into their culture, so having yours translated will not hurt.
A firm handshake is just as important as the clothes worn for a formal meeting, displaying a good image is extremely important: men should wear dark colored suits and women suit-jacket or an elegant dress in light colors. It’s advisable to bring fine and quality accessories, French loves this kind of details that denotes class. As the last point, the French people have a less relaxed idea of casual clothes than in other countries, so have this in mind this on any occasion.