A Civil World. Off-topic discussions on a variety of topics. > Time For a Coffee Break!

Learning French . . . aka how to be etiquettely correct when in France

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jpcher:
DD#2 (18) will be traveling to France mid-March. She will be with a group, but there will be "free" times where she is on her own.

While discussing the trip with her she mentioned that she's most worried about the free times and not knowing the language.

Does anybody have any sites or advice for quickly learning certain phrases of the French language that are "must learns" for tourists?

* Etiquette phrases such as please, thank you, excuse me, I'm sorry/apologize . . . are a must-know in my book. (let me know if I'm forgetting something)

* I don't speak the French language, Do you speak English, I didn't understand that?

* Please help, I'm lost, can you direct me to . . . are other phrases that come to mind.

* How much does this cost?, Do you take Discover Card? . . . I'm reaching here. ;)

What are the important language phrases/terms that DD#2 needs to know?


Along the same lines, are there any particular Do's or Don'ts that a tourist should know when traveling in France?



Any help/thoughts/advice would be extremely appreciated! ;D




eta: Just thought of these . . . Good morning, Good afternoon, Have a great day! . . . general greetings, etc. ;D

Carotte:
Ok, the single most important thing is:

Always start greeting the person you are about to talk to, in French. A simple "Bonjour, excusez-moi .." ( Hello, excuse me ..) is enough.

Seems like some of my compatriots will not answer at all or notice you until you start with that. ( Yes, Parisians can be pretty cringe worthy if you don't 'do it right' - but past this simple step, and if the person has the time they will gratefully help you ).

The full phrase would be "bonjour, excusez moi, pouvez-vous m'aider? - parlez-vous anglais?"
                                   "Hello,     excuse me,   could you help me? - do you speak english?"
And of course ned with "merci" or "merci beaucoup" ( thank you/ thank you very much)

Key words or pieces of phrases can be enough to go by with, we won't fault a tourist that go with a mix of both language :) , but really the best thing would be to either invest in a phrase book or look up a specific web-site - there should be plenty of them, I think some will even have audio. Try youtube too.

ETA: the rest of etiquette is mostly the same as the US or the UK, use of common sense and observation of the 'locals' can be usefull.
Trying not to be 'that tourist' too - respect the fact that while (general) you is a tourist here, people around are working, living here, they might be busy, want to enjoy the quiet.
I guess they'll be in Paris? It can and will get crowded around touristic spots, and the metro is packed in the morning (I'd say from 7.30 to 9 ish) and afternoon (5ish to 7) depending on the ligne/stop. No need to fuss, best to keep it cool and read up on the ticket/fare system beforehand so as to not blockup the turnstiles.

AuntieA:
I agree with Carotte. Especially when shopping - pleasantly greet the shop owner/staff first. I also keep my hands to myself in shops (ie I don't poke at/handle) items unless I am seriously anticipating a purchase. BF & I have spent almost six weeks in Nice & environs on different occasions, and have gotten along very well.

Otherwise, we adhere to our normal behavior in public anywhere - let others go first, excuse ourselves, no loud voices, and no drama.

BabylonSister:
About.com has a very helpful section about France and the French language, and I think they still have a forum.  You can also find phrasebooks in bookstores.  Audio is important because French and English have very different phonetic systems and it's hard to guess how a word is pronounced based on its spelling (we love our silent final consonants.)


Carotte and AuntieA have very helpful suggestions.  Parisians are like most big city people.  They are naturally more aloof than small town people.  They can seem cold and rude, but it's just self-protection.  Most are glad to help a tourist if you are nice. 


Typically French people are a bit more guarded than Americans, even after you know them a little.  They don't hug too much and being on a first name basis is only for friends, family and (usually) co-workers.


If you have any question, I'll be glad to help via PM.  I have 31 years of experience with France and 12 in the US so I'm acquainted with cultural differences.

Carotte:
Oh, another advice, but less etiquette, more day to day:
We sadly don't have much in term of drinkable water access outside so keeping a bottle of water is good, and filling it up whenever they can (inside museums for example, behind the public bathrooms ( they're free, the water is outside, on the other side of the entrance, and can be pretty easy to miss).)
Cheapest way to buy something to eat/drink is a supermarket.
Depending on their accommodation and lunch plans, if they have to figure it out themself, the cheapest way to go is buying ham/cheese/butter/whatever in a supermarket and baguettes (french bread) in a boulangerie (or even sliced bread in the supermarket) - good if multiple people are making sandwitches.

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