9 top tips to blend in on a French beach

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9 top tips to blend in on a French beach
People on the beach in Corsica, France (Photo by Pascal POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP)

Wonder why everyone’s staring at you? If you don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb on a beach in France, then read our list of ways to blend in.


1. Be sun-smart

French beaches are normally at their emptiest around midday. Why? Because that’s when the sun’s rays are at their strongest – and most dangerous.

Midday also happens to be the all-important lunch time. But if you do venture on a beach around noon, don’t forget to slap on the sunscreen. After all, how many tomato-coloured Frenchies have you seen lately?

2. Don’t drink on the beach

Downing cans of lager on the beach is a sure way to stick out as a foreigner - and attract disapproving glances from your French fellow beachgoers.

Feel like a drink? Any self-respecting Frenchman will go to a beach bar. It’s far more chic. Tip: stick to the rosé, or a decent Sancerre.

READ MORE: Rosé, spritz and pressé: 5 things to drink in France this summer

Likewise, while picnics are common in France, French people generally leave the beach for lunch. Even committed beach bunnies happily take two hour off bronzing for a delicious nosh-up with wine, and there are often high quality restaurants on the beach front.

If you're heading to a restaurant, make sure you put a top on (men as well as women).

4. Be considerate of those around you

If you want to avoid getting weird looks, consider keeping your music to a lower volume. You'll also want to play beach sports with a safe distance from other beachgoers. Accidentally hitting someone in the head with a frisbee might get some French swear words thrown at you.

Many beaches have designated sports areas such as a net for beach volleyball. Likewise, an increasing number of beaches are going smoke free (although it's fair to say also that some people ignore those rules and light up a cigarette), so check out the signs showing local bylaws.

5. Come already changed

There’s nothing more awkward than a flustered beachgoer trying to master the two-towel trick while changing into a swimsuit. Most people in France, you’ll find, arrive with their bathing suit already on underneath their clothes. Forgot to change? The trick is to do it as effortlessly as possible.

If you do show some flesh, rest assured that no one on the beach will bat an eyelid.  


6. Men: show those curves

Men: it’s time to get out those budgie-smugglers (Speedos).

While men in the US and UK mostly opt for baggy swimming shorts, a surprising number of French guys (both young and old) turn up at the beach in skimpy Speedos. The reason for this, apart from the aerodynamic effects of Lycra, is that they’re often obliged to wear skin-tight bathing costumes in public swimming pools. Apparently, they help keep the water cleaner.  

7. Expect to see some topless people (and sometimes full nudity)

Topless sunbathing is less common than it once was in France, especially among younger women, but nonetheless plenty of women do like to take their top off and get a nice, even tan.

We’re not saying you have to join in – but do try to be open-minded and don't stare.

If you do go topless, be sure to put a top back on when you get off the beach - and this applies to men as well.

Likewise there are plenty of nudist beaches in France - these are usually clearly signposted, but if you do find yourself on the nudist section it's considered polite to strip off or, if that's not something you're comfortable with, move to the non-nudist area. As with topless women, it's considered rude to stare, point or laugh.


READ MORE: Bare necessities: The rules for getting naked in France

8. Flaunt it - whether you’ve got it or not

OK, so perhaps this wouldn’t apply so much at places like the swanky St Tropez’s Club 55 or the Monte Carlo Beach Club. But, on the whole, you’ll notice that French people aren’t too fussed about revealing less-than-perfect bodies on the beach, where you’ll find young and old in all shapes and sizes.

The beach is a time to relax, read a few books and spend time with family and friends, not to worry about your thighs.


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