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10 Surprising Bad Habits Of The French

May 26, 2023

France is renowned for its rich culture, exquisite cuisine, and sophisticated lifestyle. However, like any other nation, the French have their own set of quirks and bad habits that might surprise you. Let's take a light-hearted look at some of these habits that, while amusing, give a unique charm to the French way of life.

1. Lateness as a Norm

Punctuality is not a top priority for many French people. Being fashionably late is often seen as acceptable, especially for social gatherings. Whether it’s a dinner party or a casual meet-up, expect your French friends to arrive at least 15 minutes late.

2. Excessive Smoking

Smoking is a prevalent habit in France, despite various health campaigns. It's common to see people enjoying a cigarette with their coffee at cafes, in parks, or even outside office buildings. The French have a relaxed attitude towards smoking, making it a deeply ingrained social habit.

3. Avoiding Small Talk

Unlike in many cultures where small talk is a social lubricant, the French often skip it altogether. They prefer deep, meaningful conversations and might come across as aloof or unfriendly when avoiding the usual chit-chat about the weather or weekend plans.

4. Public Displays of Affection

The French are known for their romantic nature, and public displays of affection (PDA) are quite common. Couples kissing, holding hands, and showing affection in public spaces is a norm, reflecting their open attitude towards love and intimacy.

5. Overuse of “Ça va?”

The phrase “Ça va?” (How’s it going?) is often used as a casual greeting rather than a genuine inquiry about someone’s well-being. It’s similar to saying “Hi” in English, and most of the time, the expected response is a simple “Ça va,” regardless of how one is actually feeling.

6. Baguette Obsession

A day in France often starts with a trip to the local bakery for a fresh baguette. While this isn't necessarily a bad habit, the obsession with getting the perfect baguette every day can seem excessive to outsiders. It's not uncommon for people to make a second trip if the first bakery didn't have their preferred loaf.

7. Prolonged Meal Times

Meals in France can last for hours, with multiple courses and lengthy conversations. While this is a delightful way to enjoy food and company, it can be surprising for those used to quicker dining experiences. Be prepared to spend a significant amount of time at the table when dining with the French.

8. Ignoring Personal Space

The French often stand closer to each other compared to what might be considered comfortable in other cultures. This can be surprising for those who value their personal space. Expect close proximity in lines, public transport, and during conversations.

9. Striking Culture

Strikes are a common occurrence in France, affecting various sectors from transportation to education. The French are known for their readiness to protest and strike for their rights, sometimes causing significant disruptions. It's a testament to their strong sense of civic duty and willingness to fight for change.

10. Liberal Use of “Non”

The French are known for their frequent use of the word “non” (no). It’s often used as a starting point in negotiations or discussions and doesn’t necessarily mean a flat refusal. It’s a cultural nuance that can be puzzling for those not accustomed to this conversational style.

While these habits might seem surprising or even peculiar to outsiders, they add to the unique charm of the French culture. Embracing these quirks can lead to a deeper appreciation of the French way of life, making your experience in France all the more enriching. Whether it’s the leisurely meal times, the romantic public displays of affection, or the passionate strikes, these habits reflect the vibrant and diverse nature of French society.

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