French Culture – Popular Traditions and Customs
French traditions are numerous and diverse. The the traditions, customs, manners, etiquette and values of French culture are varied. Some are regional and some apply to the entire culture.
French culture comprises dimensions of its unique tryst with social hierarchy and distinct geographical location. The influx of European influence and subsequent development of the arts has enabled France to have a profound effect on world culture. France has been the center of culture since the seventeenth century. It has been recognized for the resilience of its people and aesthetic sense in cinema, food cuisine and of course, fashion.
Historically, the French culture was influenced by Celtic and Gallo-Roman cultures as well as the Franks, a Germanic tribe. France was initially defined as the western area of Germany known as Rhineland but it later came to refer to a territory that was known as Gaul during the Iron Age and Roman era.
Traditions and customs in french culture
This is useful for anyone researching French culture, customs, manners, etiquette, values and wanting to understand the people better. France has a long and varied history to draw upon, and countless legends and customs have been passed from generation to generation. In addition, each region of France is quite unique and proudly boasts its own version of French culture. Learning about these cultural traditions is a richly rewarding endeavour and just pure fun. French traditions including special ways of celebrating religious holidays, national holidays such as Bastille Day, and special wedding traditions.The French also have a rich tradition of the arts, and many famous French writers and famous French artists have merged from this notable nation.
French social norms including physical and verbal greetings and eating customs and culinary norms. Some French phrases sound strange to non-French speakers, but these creative expressions are common in the language. There are many other French cultural customs, such as the way the French speak and write the days of the week and months of the year, or express themselves in formal or informal expressions of saying hello in French, goodbye in French, and expressing gratitude in French.
Etiquette & Customs in France
- The handshake is a common form of greeting.
- Friends may greet each other by lightly kissing on the cheeks, once on the left cheek and once on the right cheek.
- First names are reserved for family and close friends. Wait until invited before using someone’s first name.
- You are expected to say ‘bonjour’ or ‘bonsoir’ (good morning and good evening) with the honorific title Monsieur or Madame when entering a shop and ‘au revoir’ (good-bye) when leaving.
- If you live in an apartment building, it is polite to greet your neighbours with the same appellation.
Kissing in France
To kiss or not to kiss, that is the question. It’s best to take it slowly when negotiating this social minefield and to take your cue from the French. You shouldn’t kiss ( faire la bise) when first introduced to an adult, although young children will expect to be kissed.
French Family Values
The family is the social adhesive of the country and each member has certain duties and responsibilities.The extended family provides both emotional and financial support.Despite their reputation as romantics, the French have a practical approach towards marriage.Families have few children, but parents take their role as guardians and providers very seriously.
Languages of France
French is the dominant language of the country’s 65.4 million residents, but there are a number of variants based on region. French, the official language, is the first language of 88 percent of the population and is typically the second language of those who speak another language. About 3 percent of the population speak German dialects, predominantly in the eastern provinces, and there is a small group of Flemish speakers in the northeast. Arabic is the third-largest minority language.Those living near the border with Italy typically speak Italian as a second language, and Basque is spoken by people living along the French-Spanish border.
Other dialects and languages include Catalan, Breton (the Celtic language), Occitan dialects, and languages from the former French colonies, including Kabyle and Antillean Creole.
The national sport of France is soccer, which is colloquially referred to as ‘le foot’ followed by rugby. The French also enjoy basketball, tennis and sailing. Tour de France is an annual cycling race held in France, while the Grand Slam French Open is the nation’s tribute to another favorite sport – tennis. Grand Prix racing, fencing, Parkour and babyfoot are hugely promoted by the Ministry for Youth Affairs and Sports.
Paris is the ‘Fashion Capital of the World’. The presence of dedicated couturier houses, fashion shows and dedicated media like ‘Elle’ dominate the fashion industry. France’s very own designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Claude Montana, Pierre Cardin, Sonia Rykiel, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Paco Rabanne and Christian Lacroix are world renowned fashion designers. Even though France’s fashion industry has come under increasing competition from London, New York, Milan and Tokyo since the 1960s, many foreign designers still seek to make their careers in France.
French Food – cuisine
Food and wine are central to life at all socioeconomic levels, and much socializing is done around lengthy dinners. Bread is central to any meal, and it is commonplace to see long, crusty baguettes being carried home. Cheese is also an essential part of any French meal. While cooking styles have changed to emphasize lighter fare, many still associate French cooking with heavy sauces and complicated preparation. Some classic French dishes include boeuf bourguignon — a stew made of beef braised in red wine, beef broth and seasoned with garlic, onions and mushrooms — and coq au vin, a dish made with chicken, Burgundy wine, lardons (small strips or cubes of pork fat), button mushrooms, onions and optional garlic.
Art and crafts
The country’s long, colorful and often tumultuous history is said to be responsible for the sheer extent of France’s artistic wealth. France has produced several big names in art and architecture, that are world-famous and French art has made important contributions to Western Art. French music includes folk, Latin American, hip hop, rock and techno-funk genres.
Events and celebration Traditions
The French celebrate the traditional Christian holidays of Christmas and Easter. They mark May Day, also known as Labor Day, on May 1. Victory in Europe Day on May 8 commemorates the end of hostilities in Europe in World War II. Bastille Day is celebrated on July 14, the day the Bastille fortress in Paris was stormed by revolutionaries to start the French Revolution.
French Christmas Holiday Celebration
Originally a pagan festival and then a Christian celebration, on the 25 December, of the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas is now an opportunity for all the generations in a family to come together, and enjoy themselves. Following the Gospels’ accounts of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, where pilgrims went to see the Grotto of the Nativity at night, the custom of celebrating a mass, traditionally at midnight, spread to the West, but this gradually moved to the early evening. The tradition of the Christmas tree first appeared in Europe in the 12th century in Alsace. In the mid-16th century, the town of Sélestat was the first to authorise cutting down evergreen trees for Christmas Eve. Presents are placed at the foot of the Christmas tree.
Come Easter, don’t expect giant rabbits wearing berets. In French lore, church bells fly off on Holy Thursday, carrying with them the unhappiness and despair of those mourning the death of Jesus. After making a pit stop at the Vatican, the bells return Sunday morning. French children search the house and garden for the chocolate Easter bells and eggs brought from the journey.