It’s been slightly more than 2 months living in France and my husband often say that the french way of living will infuse in me. I guess its true since I am surrounded by locals everyday. Here are ten things I’ve observed about the french culture since arriving.

Not in the order of importance or priority

    • BONJOUR

      Literally means good morning and also ‘hello’. This word is key! You say it whenever you make eye contact with someone. It could be someone you know or someone you don’t know but saying Bonjour is polite and necessary. This is the magic word to say to your neighbours, to the postman, to the cleaning lady and to any service staff and you say this Bonjour from morning to mid afternoon.

    • RE-BONJOUR

      What happens if you meet the same person you already said Bonjour to earlier in the day or perhaps a few hours before? Simple, you just say re-bonjour! I burst into laughter when I first found out about this thinking it was really redundant to emphasise on saying ‘re’ but it actually makes sense! Saying another Bonjour to the same person again may mean that you did not genuinely greet the person in the first place. When I was in a Parisian cafe last month, I said 2 bonjours to the same garçon de cafe (cafe waiter) and he replied saying that he remembered me already greeting him the first time. Very attentive indeed.

    • BOOK SPINE

      We have french and english books at home and since the OCD in me likes to keep things neatly, I noticed that the words on the book spines while tidying the bookshelf. So for a french book, the words on the book spine are tilted to the left, while words on the english books are tilted to the right!

    • YOGHURT & CHEESE

      The amount of dairy consumed is top level and these two are staples in all (or most) french homes. At the supermarkets, you see aisle and aisles of yoghurt in small and large quantities and also in all sort of flavours, it’s a nationwide staple and I have never had so much dairy at home until living here in France. Not complaining though… french cheese is really the best. J’adore le fromage français <3

    • BOTTLED MINERAL WATER

      I see people buying by the gallons. One time at Carrefour, I saw a couple filling the entire shopping cart with only bottled water. In Singapore, I drink filtered water from the tap or boil it in a kettle and traveling is the only time I buy bottled mineral water from shops but truth be told, I have jumped onto the bandwagon and have started to buy bottled water at the french supermarkets – Evian, Vittel, Volvic. A friend once told me that the minerals in bottled water are good for health since they are labelled ‘spring water’ or ‘eau de source’.

    • FRENCH TELEPHONE NUMBER

      I understand 0-10 in french perfectly so one time, I asked a friend for his mobile number and he replied in doubles. I later noticed that on ads and name cards that the numbers are written in doubles. For example, if a contact number is 07 12 34 56 78, a french will say it out as “zero seven, twelve, thirty-four, fifty-six, seventy-eight”.

    • NOM & PRENOM

      Okay, this one is confusing. Nom = name, prenom = first name. A non french speaking person can easily decipher this but in France, they often emphasize on the Nom and it is always written in capital letters. So my surname Tjoa will be TJOA with an underline as if someone is saying out my name is a harsh angry tone. I sometimes wonder what will happen if I write my Chinese name because that will become a lot more complicated. lol.

    • BONJOUR MESSIEURS, DAMES

      A shortened version of the actual ‘Bonjour Monsieur, Bonjour Madame’. You will not hear this unless you pay close attention, which i did when I was at the restaurant. At first I thought it was the french person speaking really fast but I noticed it again and again at several more restaurants. What a brilliant way to greet both the man and the lady politely and quickly.

    • Salut!

      Another greeting for ‘bonjour’ is Salut! This is far less formal than Bonjour and you usually say it to someone you have a closer relationship and don’t have to stand on ceremony – your sibling or friend.

    • LA BISE

      French and their kisses …. la bise is for the cheeks not the lips but have you wondered about the number of kisses to give and which cheek to start kissing first? One can see that it’s more often starting with the left cheek in the South of France and the right one in the Paris. As for the number of times, it’s very often 2 times in Paris (right kiss > left kiss) and 3 times in the South of France (left kiss > right kiss > left kiss). Save the embarrassment when you give ‘la bise’ to a french next time!