Etiquette

Overall, communication tends to be formal and reserved, but this shouldn't be mistaken for unfriendliness.

  • Greetings Always greet/farewell anyone you interact with, such as shopkeepers, with ‘Bonjour (bonsoir at night)/Au revoir'.
  • Shops Particularly in smaller upmarket boutiques, staff may not appreciate your touching the merchandise until you have been invited to do so, nor taking photographs.
  • Speech Parisians don't speak loudly – modulate your voice to a similarly low pitch.
  • Terms of address Tu and vous both mean ‘you’, but tu is only used with people you know very well, children or animals. Use vous until you're invited to use tu.
  • Conversation topics Discussing financial affairs (eg salaries or spending outlays) is generally taboo in public.
  • Waitstaff Never use ‘garçon’ (literally 'boy') to summon a waiter, rather ‘Monsieur’ or ‘Madame’.