La politesse: what habits can make you seem rude to French people?

Sometimes it can be all too easy to commit a cultural faux pas without even realising it. We look at some of the most common

You might not realise some common habits are seen as rude in France
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From a casual attitude to manners to not prioritising mealtimes, we take a look at the sometimes common habits that can make foreigners seem rude to French people.

Not saying hello and goodbye

This may seem very basic, but the French pride themselves on good manners, and start every request or conversation with a “bonjour”.

“Just smiling or saying a quick bonjour and then launching into your request or conversation can be very off putting for a French person,” says American Emily Monaco, who has lived in Paris since 2006 and hosts Navigating the French, a podcast about French culture and language.

Not being polite enough

Aside from a proper hello and goodbye, other pleasantries are expected in France. Leave them out and you will likely come across as rude.

These include using please and thank you, and politely addressing people in shops or restaurants e.g. referring to waiters and waitresses as Madame or Monsieur.

Being too friendly

There seems to be a sweet spot in France, between making sure you are polite and saying hello and being a little TOO friendly.

Being too over-familiar can seem rude. This can range from using the informal ‘tu’ too soon (if in doubt, use the formal version of you ‘vous’) to divulging too much information, being touchy-feely or acting in an over-enthusiastic manner.


Many French people cannot understand the habit of hugging friends hello or goodbye, perhaps ironic for a country where a kiss is a common form of greeting.

But most French people see a hug as far more intimate than a kiss on the cheek. As a French colleague at The Connexion put it: “it’s something I (and my friends) can’t get over”.

Little effort to speak French

It is perhaps a cliché, but many native English speakers have the reputation of making little effort to learn or speak French.

Trying out your French, even just with an opening parlez-vous anglais? is a polite way to address someone rather than immediately using English and expecting others to understand you.

Read more: French people are not rude, just direct

Rushing a meal

In many homes in France, lunch and dinner remain a sacred time to enjoy a leisurely meal together. France came top of some 30 countries in a 2018 study of time spent at the table eating and drinking per day. French people spend two hours and 13 minutes every day enjoying their food.

Some habits, such as eating lunch at your desk, or using your mobile phone at the table, can come across as rude, as can eating too quickly.

Read more: How to lunch like a Parisian

Public drunkenness

France is a nation of wine lovers, and it is not uncommon to prendre un verre with a meal. But one thing that is rare to witness is public drunkenness. This habit, and the often associated rowdiness and shouting in public, can make you stand out for all the wrong reasons.

‘British drinking habits come as a shock now we live in France’

Fussy eaters

France loves its food, and French people love visitors to fully embrace their specialities. If you start turning your nose up at French cuisine, or stipulate too many culinary dislikes – prepare to offend.

France is very particular about its food – in 2022 it ruled meat substitute products could not use any meat terms in their names e.g. vegetarian sausages.

Read more: ‘No fussy eating, strict bedtimes - my French parenting rules’


France is a proud country and many French people find it rude if you extol the virtues of your own country – for example when it comes to sport or politics – a bit too much.

The stereotype of arrogance can also sometimes feed into language learning, with the idea that native English speakers “expect everyone to speak English” seen as rude.

Talking about money

Talking about money is generally frowned upon in France, especially probing questions such as asking someone how much they earn.

Read more: It is claimed the French do not care about money – but is it true?

Not bringing something to a dinner party

If you have been invited to a French person’s home, it is considered polite to bring something along, such as a bottle of wine or flowers. However, do not expect your wine to be opened and drunk that same night, as is often the case in the UK and elsewhere.

Even if the host has told you not to, it would still be considered rude by many people if you actually show up empty handed.

Read more

People in south-west of France are the most polite, survey claims

Top tips for French etiquette

Resto etiquette: Don't use garçon!