The guide to French abroad

By A Jul 1, 2023
The guide to French abroadThe guide to French abroad

What are the most commonly used French expressions abroad?

Among the French expressions most used abroad, we find:

  1. ”  Bon appétit  “, an expression used in many countries to wish a good meal and can coexist with an equivalent in the local language. In the same genre, we also find the expression “  bon voyage  ”.
  2. ”  Faux pas  “, to talk about an error or a breach of certain codes as in fashion faux pas .
  3. ”  Déjà vu  “, to describe the feeling of having already experienced or witnessed a situation before.
  4. ”  Rendezvous  “, often in the sense of a romantic encounter.
  5. “  C’est la vie  ”, an expression used to accept a difficult situation.
  6. ” I don’t know what  “, which one surely hears more often in New York than in Paris.

Some French expressions popular abroad even pass for a foreign language. This is the case of the word thank you taken as it is in Romanian, but also in Bulgarian and Persian .

Did you know ? If you are invited to an American wedding, you may receive an RSVP card. It is the abbreviation of the French expression “Répondez s’il vous plait” to confirm its presence at the event. In France, it is not used, preferring instead the formula “Answer expected before…”.

These details that betray your French origins abroad

There is French from abroad and French from abroad. In other words, the language and the individual. Some details betray your French origins abroad. Starting with the accent , of course. But sometimes it’s much more subtle. For example, the French have a very special relationship with food. They like to take longer breaks for lunch and prefer take – out, when it’s possible. This does not exempt them from certain missteps! In Italy, ordering a cappuccino after lunch does not necessarily make you French. Other foreigners have the same strange mania. But you are also identified as a tourist. Ditto for this heresy of pineapple pizza which continues to shock many Neapolitans.

The French are often known for their politeness and courtesy, sometimes extreme. They would be more formal than the English, who do not differentiate between tu and vous . But also more caring. On the side of non-verbal communication, the smile is enough to prove it. It’s cultural: in some countries, unlike France, you don’t smile at strangers. In Russia, smiling at someone you don’t know can be seen as hypocrisy. However, French politeness has its limits because a Frenchman who forgets to take off his shoes before entering someone’s home is immediately considered disrespectful. It is however a basic rule to be applied in the Middle East, in Asia and in a good number of Slavic countries.

Sometimes it is enough to analyze restaurant behaviors . There are certain codes in France which do not always apply abroad. Following them is enough to betray his French origins. Like waiting at the entrance for a waiter or waitress to come and place us at a table. Then wait wisely for the bill without knowing that it is paid at the counter instead. In some countries, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, there are even coat racks in restaurants. Customers are expected to leave theirs there and collect it when leaving. Except when you’re French and you prefer to keep your jacket or coat on the back of your chair. Some restaurants even have their own cloakroom at the entrance. The famous gardenerob(“garderob”) in Belarus and Russia, a word imported from French but which does not fail to attract some astonishment on the part of the people of origin concerned.

A last detail, and not least, can betray the origin of a Frenchman: money, more particularly the tip. There are many countries where tipping is recommended , in restaurants of course, but also in taxis and for other services. It is generally appropriate to leave at least 10% of the note, whether or not one is satisfied with a service. This is a major difference with France where tipping is widely seen as an option and must be earned. And since the words have a meaning, let’s specify that saying thank you while handing the change to a server can be perceived as a “keep the change”!

By A

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