French Tipping Protocol, French Gratuities, & French Culture
- DO wear what you normally wear, but keep in mind that attire such as baseball caps, flip-flops, and white sneakers are not traditionally worn by French people. It is fine to wear it, but you will probably be labeled as a tourist.
- DO feel welcome to wear your country's ethnic attire if necessary, such as kilts, saris, etc. People may stare at you in the more rural areas of France, but people will not be offended.
- DON'T eat with your fingers! You should always use your eating utensils, even at a fast food restaurant.
- DON'T eat on the street. It can be seen as unsophisticated.
- DON'T start eating immediately after being served. Wait for your host to put their napkin on their lap, and then follow suit. After drinks have been served, join in on the toast. You may start dining after the host invites you to begin eating.
- DON'T take a bite from a whole piece of bread. Instead, tear your bread into a bite-sized piece and then eat it.
- DO expect a glass of wine with dinner. Wine glasses are filled only three-quarters of the way.
- DON'T put your arms on your lap during dinner. Put them above the table.
- DO give a gift that shows that you are intellectual, such a gift of books or music.
- DO bring a gift for the hostess if invited to a French person's house. Good host gift ideas include flowers and wine. Bear in mind that France is known for its wine, so do your research and bring a nice bottle of wine! If you are invited to dinner, a dessert or cheese previously decided on also makes a nice gift.
- DON'T give an even number of flowers as a gift. Flowers should always be given in odd numbers, except for thirteen, as that is an unlucky number.
- DO be very careful when picking out flowers as a gift. There are a few taboos when it comes to giving a French person flowers. White flowers are typically only used during weddings, white lilies and chrysanthemums are flowers for funerals, and red carnations stand for bad will.
Visting Someone's Home
- DO give your host a gift. As a tourist from another country, a gift from your native country is appreciated.
- DO maintain eye contact when talking with clients. This shows them that your full attention is with them.
- DON'T expect the people you are meeting with to be on time. Punctuality is treated very casually in France.
- DON'T show any impatience or a confrontational attitude, as it can be seen as a sign of being unprofessional.
- DO wear business outfits such as tailored suits, pants, and skirts.
- DO shake hands upon meeting someone, as well as when you are leaving.
- DO greet people with "bonjour" (good day) or "bonsoir" (good evening), and when leaving say "au revoir", which means good-bye.
- DO address people with the titles "Monsieur" (Mister) and "Madame" (Mrs.) when meeting someone for the first time, or in a business meeting. Use "Mademoiselle" when greeting a young, unmarried woman or girl. Older, unmarried women can still be referred to as "Madame."
- DO apologize for your lack of knowledge if you do not speak French.
- DON'T take your top off at a swimming pool or beaches that are part of a hotel unless you don't mind people staring. It won't necessarily cause a scene, but some people may ogle.
- DO put a shirt on once leaving the beach.
- DON'T worry about small children running around the beach without clothes on. People won't be offended.
In France, service charge is always included, and so tipping, or le pourboire (lit. pour boire: "to drink"), is not expected. It is however not at all uncommon to leave some small change on the table; this is only if the service is of a high standard.
Our French Tipping Recommendations
- Taxis and Limos: Tipping optional, Round up to next bill/large coin
- Airport Shuttles: Tipping not required
- Hotel Shuttles and Carpark Shuttles: Tipping not required