Three Things You Need to Know About the French

Yesterday (14 July) was Bastille Day in France, a proud day for a people with a proud history. The French may not wield the same clout as they once did on the world stage, but for many of us, their culture is still the by-word for sophistication. If advertisers want to associate their products with elegance and culture, they’ll use French-sounding voices and music.

I myself am a Francophile. I love French wine, French cheese and French bread. We’ll glide gently past their pop music and their comedy. And I admire French people: their independence of spirit, their intellectual rigour, the fact that they mean what they say. The French are sometimes thought to be arrogant. I think they’re misunderstood, so to celebrate them this Bastille Day weekend, I’ve come up with some observations which I hope will make it easier to understand their funny little ways. They’re not exactly scientific, but they’re true to my experience of French people.

They Will Correct Your French

The French are proud of their language – and rightly so. It’s a sensual feast of a language, with those silky sounds, the elegant words, the rich meaning behind some of their everyday phrases. And they’re very particular about how it’s spoken. When you make a faux pas (sorry, couldn’t resist), they’ll rush in to correct you. They don’t consider it rude – after all, the purity of their language is at stake. Try not to bristle when they do it – they genuinely believe they’re helping you. In a way, it’s a compliment. They think you speak the language well enough to be worth correcting.

They Kiss, But It’s Not Affectionate

People tend to think of the French as an affectionate, touchy-feely people, because of all the kissing they do – between two and four kisses per person depending on the region. But the French just use the kiss as a form of greeting, much the same as a handshake for the rest of us. It’s an impersonal gesture, with the lips barely touching the cheek. The French kiss regardless of the level of relationship, whereas other nations save their kisses and hugs for those they’re closest to.

They Drink One Glass of Wine

Glass of Wine
The French derive pleasure from just one glass of wine.

This is aimed at Irish readers of this post. We may aspire to drink like the French, who appear to live long and prosper on a diet of red wine. But it’s never going to happen. We are all-or-nothing drinkers, while the French drink one glass of wine at a sitting, no more and no less. They immerse themselves fully in the pleasure of that glass and they drink it without guilt. If we want to drink like French people, we will need to learn to see it not as an enemy, nor as a route to oblivion, but as a source of sensual pleasure.

Are you a Francophile or a Francophobe? Do my observations about the French chime with you? What have you yourself noticed about them?


7 thoughts on “Three Things You Need to Know About the French

    1. Is that pourquoi as to why you never mention the photos, or pourquoi as to why I never mention them? Most of them are stock pictures from Pixabay. Thanks for your kind words about them, and being such a faithful commenter.


  1. Elizabeth Twohig

    I would add that I find them infuriating for responding in English to my admittedly rusty French. They arrogantly want to show of their English and don’t want to help one improve on one’s French. I have much less spanish and Italian but they will cheerily indulge my attempts.


  2. Michel Marache

    I’m French
    ” World Champion ” 😉
    Just one comment drink champagne as an aperitif never never with dessert
    Another comment eat cheese BEFORE the dessert
    Another comment félicitations for speaking French so many english speaking people come to France nearly every year on holidays and are just able to say ” une bière s’il vous plaît “.
    So sorry if we correct you but in our language we have feminine and masculine which is very difficult and really we try to help you
    No problem you can correct my English 😉


    1. Félicitations, World Champion. You have a marvellous culture, so I don’t blame you for wanting to safeguard it. As it’s considered rude in Irish culture to correct people in public, I won’t correct your English, but I’ll be happy to advise you on the correct words to use if you ask. Thanks for your comments on my blog posts.


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