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The quirky Gallic habits you'll pick up in France

Oliver Gee · 8 Dec 2015, 16:37

Published: 08 Dec 2015 16:37 GMT+01:00
Updated: 08 Dec 2015 16:37 GMT+01:00

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Kissing other men
Kissing other men when greeting them (or going bearded cheek to bearded cheek to be more accurate) is one of the quirkiest Gallic traits for Anglos to adjust to. 
But give it a few years and you'll be doing it without even noticing. Although it might be a habit to drop when you go home for Christmas. Your mates back home may not be ready for this kind of cheek on cheek greeting just yet. 
Photo: AFP
Sticking to lift etiquette
Some say it's robotic etiquette, some argue that it's quite nice actually - but either way, French people will almost without fail say bonjour to you when you get into a lift. They will also almost certainly wish you a bonne journée as you exit. However they'll say nothing in between.
Give it time and you'll find it normal too. Before long, it will be you wishing the others a bonne journée.
French elevator protocol: Greeting, flirting and sexPhoto: Shutterstock
Calling McDonald's "McDo"
Many countries have their own way to shorten the name of the world's most popular food chain. In the UK and US, you might hear "Macky (or Micky) Dees", in Australia it's "Maccas", in Sweden it's "Donken". And in France, it's "McDo". 
When you're telling people that you're going to grab a burger at "McDo" - you've almost gone native. 
Photo: AFP
Shrugging your shoulders
Everyone knows about the particularly popular French mannerism known as the Gallic shrug. It's essentially an animated raising of the shoulders, preferably with an animated frown.
According to readers the Gallic shrug is probably the easiest French habit to pick up and its a pretty useful one too, especially if you can't speak the language. And your friends back home are sure to notice how very French you have become.
Photo: The Local
Biting the end off a baguette
The French don't really do eating on the go, unless its the end of a baguette on the way home, in which case they're all guilty. And you might find it strange at first not to wait until you get home, but you'll soon be chewing and walking before you know it.
Those who have never lived in France probably couldn't even imagine the pleasure that comes with tearing off the crispy crust at the end of the baguette - called the croûton - as soon as you walk out of the boulangerie (bakery), and then eating it while it's still warm. 
Photo: Todd Mecklem/Flickr
A more relaxed attitude to road courtesy
Say what you want about French drivers, but you can't deny that they enjoy tooting their horn. And it's somewhat contagious. 
American reader and long-time France resident Sedulia Scott agrees, saying her driving habits have adapted to keep up with the French. 
"I feel as if the French are better drivers than they used to be, so that probably just means I've become ruder," she says. 
We bet that after just a few times on the French roads you will have already blended in with locals. No need to take these habits home with you.
How French motorists drive expats crazyPhoto: Brett Jordan/Flickr
The Gallic temper 
One reader of The Local who was leaving France after several years hoped that she'd lose the Gallic temper she'd developed from living here.
While you might start out smirking at how irate people can get, especially in Paris, you'll soon be scowling at people who jump in front of you in queues, giving the death stare to people waiting on the Metro platform who don't let you off, and throwing your half-eaten baguette at cars that go through red lights at zebra crossings.
Wearing lipstick more often
"I use lipstick everyday. It's a necessity," a Scandinavian reader tells The Local about a habit that probably hits home for many female readers.
A French student in the UK, Gaëlle, said she misses wearing lipstick without feeling overdressed.
"Instead of getting whistled at by weird guys in the UK, in Paris I receive a silent look of approval from other girls," she told The Local. 
Photo: _Frankenstein_/Flickr
Breathing in when saying yes
You know you are really taking notice of a language when you pick up small habits that you don't find in the text books.
An example of this is breathing in when saying "oui", as is common among many people in France, especially women.
Photo: Susan Sermoneta/Flickr
Throwing in English words while speaking French
A rather strange habit that can be picked up in France is peppering your French conversation with English words.
Crucially, this isn't because you can't think of the French equivalent, but just because using the occasional English word is what the French do. 
Photo: Nacho Rascón/Flickr
Always having bread with dinner
The French always have bread with dinner. In fact, even if they were having just bread for dinner, it would probably come with a side of bread. 
And as a foreigner in France, you're bound to pick up the habit (especially with the delicious smell of fresh baguettes from every bakery on every corner). 
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And while you might start off by putting it on your plate like many of us do, the bread will soon end up on table as is the French way.
It may seem like a quirky habit to your friends back home, but it's you'd be mad to want it any other way after you've tried.
Paris reveals City of Light's best baguettePhoto: AFP
Saying hello in waiting rooms 
In France, it's normal to politely say hello to everyone present when entering a doctor's waiting room. American Katie Warren says she committed a serious faux pas when she forgot to say hello to the entire waiting room at a clinic in Clermont-Ferrand.
She says she only realized her mistake after someone else arrived and greeted everyone in the room, receiving a chorus of "bonjour"s in return.
When this becomes second nature, you've gone French. Just be careful about bringing this home. 
Photo: jakebwotha/Flickr
And lastly... Dressing better
Many a foreigner will admit to making more effort on their clothes after arriving in France, including exactly half of the team at The Local France. 
This is especially apparent in Paris. American reader Sedulia Scott says that things have changed since she arrived "a long time ago wearing jeans, a braid, and no makeup".
"I got tired of being treated like a tourist (or even, once, a nun!) when I was dressed badly, and it's just as easy to pay a little attention to how you dress, honestly," she says. 
The day you notice yourself adding a silk scarf to your outfit just because it looks good, then you know you're turning French. 
That's it for us, we're off to go clothes shopping. 
French actresses Lea Seydoux (L) and Adele Exarchopoulos. Photo: AFP
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