10 Unique French Cultures & Habits

Some things are unusual about the French that are difficult for the rest of the world to understand. Indeed, there is also a lot of prejudice about the French people which results in unrealistic observations about them.

However, even if you put those prejudices aside, sometimes the unusual behavior that comes from their unique culture will still stand out.

Indeed, our opinion about what is strange and inseparable from our own culture, customs, and traditions of the French people may still be viewed by people in other parts of the world as unusual.

  1. Everything is bread

The French love baguettes and they often admit this without hesitation. They are so in love with this one bread, it is not surprising that the afternoon after work you will see them walking by one with two baguettes in hand, with a small portion already bitten. Eating the bread is another thing.

They won’t eat the bread right away, but they will usually tear a small piece of the bread with their hands to eat, and repeat the process until the loaf is finished. They also serve bread on the table and not on a plate. Speaking of plates, if you eat food with a delicious sauce, the French custom is to tear a piece of bread and mix it with the sauce as your dessert.

  1. Little Gourmands

Small children enjoying burgers, hot dogs, chicken fingers, and other fried foods in other parts of the world is not a new phenomenon. But in France, we’ll see more and more children eating ‘adult’ food.’ Lucky children in this country can sample a wide variety of foods, which helps them to appreciate good food from an early age.

Their young taste buds were exposed to a wide variety of flavors, which may be the origin of why French cuisine has evolved into the cuisine we know today—one of the best in the world. This is not a strange thing. You can follow in their footsteps or hate them for their arrogance with their gastronomic food.

  1. Polite lifestyle

Imagine: A woman is just about to step out of a cafe and a man she doesn’t know helps her put on his jacket and opens the door for her. In America, this woman might be called sexist and humiliated. But in France, this would not be considered sexist and would instead be considered French etiquette. To refuse this kind of treatment would be considered rude in France. This is one of the exemplary habits of the French.

  1. Chipika-cipiki

This is a habit that is still related to the previous point. French people like to kiss the left and right cheeks of people they meet as a greeting—like the cipika-cipiki culture in Indonesia. Twice cipika-cipiki is usually done between two women, a woman, and a man, and sometimes even two men, especially for those of the older generation.

In some parts of France, they even do this up to five times. While this is customary in France, it is not something that is commonly practiced in other countries. And what’s interesting is that doing this on a train is illegal, because you can’t kiss on a train in France.

  1. Solidarity together

It’s not unusual to see two people who don’t know each other in France helping each other even in the smallest of things. For example, people might offer to help cross a blind person they don’t know at all or help an elderly person carry their groceries.

While some cultures resemble France in this regard, there are some cultures in other countries that won’t let you touch people you don’t know at all or even offer to help out for fear of something bad that might happen. Even in some countries, you can be arrested just for touching someone.

  1. Negative aura

I don’t know why, but French people usually have a pretty negative aura. For example, if you submit a project proposal, you must be prepared to face analyzes from your audience which will outline the risks that exist as well as the problems that will be faced with the projects you propose. Another example is if you get an A- on a test, be prepared to be asked the question: “Why not A+?” instead of getting a pat of appreciation on your shoulder. The reason is that the French believe that it is naive to simply appreciate the good things and ignore the negatives. Another explanation for this negativity is that the French believe that seeing imperfections is a sign of competence and skill. So when you’re dealing with French people, you need to be ready for criticism, and when you do get compliments, that’s not uncommon.

  1. Donate, and not share existing expenses

In America and countries that have been influenced by American culture, it is common practice to share the expenses in restaurants, for example. This is also common even in dating. The reason for this is that each person is responsible for the expenses incurred and each owes nothing to the other.

But the French don’t really like this tradition because they see it as a sign of stinginess and so it’s not okay. In a similar situation, the French are not very calculating and they will pay what they think they deserve, which is often more than they should.

This often leads to chaos because some will end up paying less than others, which is also something that is not considered good for French people who are quite concerned with prestige and self-image.

  1. There are no other items besides medicines in the pharmacy

The good news about pharmacies in France is how easy it is to find them, as they usually have a green cross right next to their name illuminated by neon. However, if you plan to look for candy or mascara at the pharmacy, chances are you won’t succeed.

While most pharmacies in other countries have followed in the footsteps of CVS and Walgreens who had the concept of turning pharmacies into mini convenience stores like mini-Walmarts, most pharmacies in France are not. These institutions are often family businesses, and only contain things that should only be sold in pharmacies, namely drugs.

  1. Plastic or paper bag

You will have the freedom to shop for groceries and cuisine in France because you have to pack your groceries. Of course, the advantage is that you can arrange your packing of things. Since no one will help you wrap your things in plastic bags, don’t expect an employee to come and help you carry them into your car.

Another thing is when you get home and find some of the eggs you bought have cracked and maybe the cheese you bought smells like the detergent you just bought too, and you have no one else to blame but yourself. While this can be considered as self and mental training, it is also a reflection of the kind of customer service you will get in supermarkets in Europe.

(Keep in mind that some local supermarkets called supérettes usually offer plastic bags free of charge, while others may ask you to pay for plastic bags made from recycled materials that you can reuse in the future).

  1. Spending time

Contrary to some cultures in other countries, the French prefer to linger in certain things. For example, try ordering a cup of espresso. You will often see French people spending hours on just a cup of espresso.

Many people see espresso as a fast way to get caffeine into their circulatory system, but the French prefer to sip it slowly and enjoy it slowly because they appreciate the company of the people they invite or the books they read in the cafe.

Well, each culture has its peculiarities that may not always be understood by other cultures. But this kind of weirdness is what makes a culture unique. The French have unusual traditions, as do other cultures, and the best thing we can do is accept this uniqueness. And don’t necessarily generalize that all French people will behave like this (especially for point no. 3).