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20 Things Outsiders Think When They Visit France For The First Time

We all have stereotypes. And this is fine. But it's not fine when we start believing these stereotypes so much that we close our minds to the truth that is different to them. If you understand the harm clichés can bring and want to get rid of them, keep in mind that the best way to do it, is traveling.

Traveling all over the world and seeing different cultures with our own eyes is an incredibly enriching experience that helps us learn what labels that we put on other countries are right and which ones are wrong. If we open our hearts and minds on a trip abroad to see the truth, our journey becomes unforgettable.

Let's take France, for example. Many of us think that the French wear only the most fashionable clothes, eat only the fanciest meals, and always speak rudely to tourists. However, if you visit France only once, you'll be surprised to see that all these stereotypes are wrong. The French often wear casual clothes, just like the rest of the world, have simple meals in their traditional cuisine, and can be really nice to you, if you're nice to them. At the same time, some of the clichés (such as those concerning the famous French charm and a huge amount of delicious kinds of cheese) are completely right!

So let's debunk the most common stereotypes about France, confirm the correct ones, and see what amazes the travelers, who come to this beautiful country for the first time.

Be ready that you might want to pack your suitcase and come to visit France after reading this list. You've been warned!

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20 The French Charm Is Real

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We've all heard that France is a charming and romantic place, but to learn that it's truth, you need to visit this country and see all this charm with your own eyes. When you walk the cobbled streets of Montmartre and the Marais, see countless small shops and cozy cafes, look at well-preserved old buildings, and check out the beautiful spots around literally every corner, you'll actually understand the meaning of the word 'charm'.

But to see more, you should also go to small towns and villages in France. Gaze at the French Alps, go skiing, take a romantic stroll under the stars with your significant other, and just relax. It's going to be unforgettable!

19 So France Isn't Only About Paris!

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When people hear about France, most imagine the Eiffel Tower and other attractions of Paris. But however great, romantic, and popular this city is, it's not the only destination that's worth visiting in this country. If you try going to some other places in France, you'll know what I'm talking about and, perhaps, you'll even forget about Paris (nay, it's impossible).

Go to Nice, the Queen of the Riviera in Southern France. Visit Bordeaux in the Atlantic Coast of the country. See Lille, a sophisticated city in the north. And don't forget to check out Lyon, a gastronomic capital of the country.

Remember that France is the biggest country in Europe and try seeing as much of it as you can.

18 Croissants Are Whose National Food Again?

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Croissants are one of the foods that everyone associates with France. If you've been to this beautiful country, you know that that they're sold all over the place there, they're delicious and everyone just loves them. But, perhaps, some of the French people you meet will tell you that the common opinion about their origin is wrong. Croissants aren't originally French. They were brought there in the late 1830s from Austria. To these days, some French people call these tasty pastries viennoiseries, which can be translated as "things from Vienna".

Also, while you're there, you might notice the French getting mad at people mentioning "French fries", because they're certainly not French, so better avoid talking about this food.

17 Wow, They Speak English!

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For some reason, most people think that French people only speak French, and if you talk to them in English, they will only get mad at you and won't even try to answer you. However, it isn't entirely true, and you can see it on your first trip to France.

A lot of people speak English in France. To be exact, around 40% of locals have a certain English-speaking ability. Besides, it's actually the second most spoken language in the country.

However, it doesn't mean that you don't have to know a little bit of French when you come to France. If you at least learn the most basic words and phrases, you'll show your respect to the locals and they will fall in love with you in a moment!

16 Sport Is So Important For The French

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The French are an extremely proud nation. They're not only proud of their high culture and rich history. But they're also obsessed with sports. Most of all, they like soccer, rugby, and cycling. A lot of people are sports fans and a lot of them also do sports on their own.

So when you come to France, be ready for locals to invite you to a game of their favorite team. And don't even think about refusing or saying that you're not a fan. It's going to sound extremely disrespectful to them. But if you go to the game and cheer along with them, you can be sure that you found lifelong friends in these people!

15 The French Have Certain Distinct Habits

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During your first visit to France, you're going to be surprised at how many people smoke there. The French fume as soon as they leave a building, when they sit at an outdoor cafe or walk along the street, and even when they stand in the line! For some reason, smoking still remains fashionable in France and tourists just have to get used to it.

Whether you decide to write this habit off as part of the culture or not, you still have to deal with a lot of fumes, when you're at public places in France. So if it bothers you, avoid the crowds of locals and eat indoors, where smoking is prohibited.

14 Coffee Costs Less Inside A Cafe

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Here's another advantage of eating indoors. You won't only run away from smoke for some time, but will also save some money! The point is, if you eat your croissant with coffee at the counter inside a cafe or brasserie, you're going to pay less for your little meal. So skip the tables at a lovely terrace outdoors and come inside this cozy cafe!

But what's the reason for lowering prices for the customers sitting inside? It's actually simple. There are statistics saying that people tend to spend more time at a cafe if they're sitting on a terrace. Some cafe owners don't like it that their tables are occupied for prolonged periods of time, so they increase the prices for outdoor customers. So come inside the cafe and the difference might make you want to stay inside!

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13 Markets Are Awesome!

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Supermarkets are not so super in France, compared to farmer's markets. So skip the "super" and just go to the first farmer's market in the area you're visiting to see how amazing it is! Mostly, people sell fresh fruits and veggies there, which they grew by themselves.

Keep in mind that going to a farmer's market instead of a supermarket will have at least three advantages for you. First, the produce there is always fresh and tasty because it comes right from the farms. Second, it's cheaper, again because it comes directly from the farms without any middlemen. Third, talking to the farmers who sell their products will give you the ultimate experience of communicating with locals!

12 So The Meal Times Are...

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Perhaps you're used to eating at any time of the day, provided you're hungry. But at your visit to France, you're going to notice that it's different there. All the meal times are set and they are set strictly. The breakfast is usually early in the morning and it's rather simple. Lunch goes somewhere between 12 and 2 PM. And don't even think about eating dinner until it's at least 7.30 PM.

What happens, if you get hungry at some other times? Well, chances are, you won't even find a place to eat! Keep these little but significant details in mind, when you're traveling to France, especially if you're traveling with kids.

11 Do I Have To Ask For The Bill?

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It happens to a lot of tourists, coming to France for the first time. They finish their meal at a cafe and wait for the waiter to bring them the bill. They wait for 10 minutes - nothing. They wait for 20 minutes - nothing. Another 20 minutes - still nothing. What's going on? Well, it's simpler than you may think. You just need to ask the waiter to bring you the bill. Otherwise, they won't bring it to you, because it's considered rude (it's like they want you to go away).

So don't hesitate and ask for your bill by saying "L'addition s'il vous plait", or just go to the register and pay there.

10 Cheese And Wine Are So Cheap!

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If you love good cheese and good wine, you're going to be fascinated by France! After all, both of these delicious products are manufactured in this country, which determines their high quality and low prices.

And here's a nice surprise for you: you won't only find the cheese at supermarkets. Be sure to check out one of the numerous fromageries, aka specialized cheese stores. Right there, you're going to find a whole range of different kinds of cheese made from cow, goat, or sheep milk. Each one of them will have its own name (some of them you've never heard before), place of origin, and personal history of manufacture.

Speaking of wine, you can find great examples of red, white, rosé, sparkling, and fortified wines to go with the cheese of your choice. Délicieux!

9 These Baguettes Are Delicious!

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And what else goes perfectly well with cheese and wine? Of course, it's a freshly baked baguette! Coming to France, you're going to see that the stereotype of the French loving their baguettes is completely right because there's no way one can't love them!

Here're a couple of tips to make your baguette experience in France even better. First, instead of buying it at a supermarket, head to a boulangerie, where it's always perfectly fresh. Second, don't think that all baguettes are the same and pay attention to a shop-window at a bakery to see the different kinds of this classic French bread. And third, remember that keeping the baguette in a special bread bin is the must because that way it's going to be preserved perfectly. Voila!

8 But Not All Their Food Is Fancy

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Most of the French dishes look fancy. Take escargots, coq au vin, or tarte flambée, for example. Sometimes, they look so beautiful that you might find it hard to start eating them! But there're also some traditional foods that are as simple as falling off a log, at least in terms of cooking them.

For example, have you tried ratatouille? It's a very simple dish made of eggplants, tomatoes, and marrows. Or, for instance, entrecôte-frites, which may sound fancy, but in reality, it's just a steak with fries. So when you come to France, you'll see that their traditional cuisine is actually rather simple, yet it's still beautifully served.

7 Guess I Shouldn't Speak So Loudly

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Many of us have a habit of speaking loudly to our friends when we're at a public place. A lot of people do it and it seems to be a norm in most countries. But not in France. If you speak loudly at a public place in France, you're likely to get quite a few condemning looks from the locals.

So if you don't want to annoy locals and bring unwanted attention to yourself, better keep your tone down. If you're traveling with kids, it's going to be more challenging, because the French expect quiet behavior from children, as well, even though it may seem to be unfair (I mean, can a 5-year-old be quiet?).

6 Greeting People With A Kiss Is The Norm

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On your first visit to France, you might be confused over how you should greet people. Sometimes you need to shake their hands, at other times you should kiss them. But don't worry, your confusion will dissipate in a minute.

The norm in France is greeting the opposite gender with a kiss (or, if you're a woman, you can also greet a woman with a kiss). Men normally don't greet each other with a kiss, unless it's a ceremonial occasion, or if they know each other very well. Now, how many kisses should you give? Most often it's two and you should start with the cheek on your left. But at some regions, three or four kisses can be involved.

5 Don't They Wear Berets?

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Most of us associate berets with France so much that we tend to think that everyone in this country wears berets every day, at least during the cold season. Coming to France for the first time, we see that they don't and become surprised over this fact.

Foreigners should certainly get over this stereotype because French actually don't wear berets unless they're buskers, mime artists, or bohemians. Besides, you can see that the French military wear these round, flat caps that originated with alpine light infantry, aka Chasseurs Alpins.

But if you really want to see the French wearing berets, go to the southwest part of the country to its border with Spain. Locals often wear berets there, but they're almost always black.

4 Not All Of Them Are Chic

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There's another common stereotype about French people (mostly, French women). We usually think that all of them are chic and slim, that they're more fashionable than people from other countries, and that they're extremely beautiful. This stereotype was inspired by numerous French movies, but the reality is a bit different.

Don't get me wrong, there're many beautiful people in France, but not all of them are as slender and stylish as you may think (just like in any other country). According to recent surveys, almost 50% of the French have excessive weight these days. Besides, they wear normal, casual clothes and you won't see many places following a specific formal dress code.

3 Why Are So Many Places Closed During The Day?

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If you expect to do some shopping or drop into a bank at daytime, while you're in France, make sure that you don't plan to do it from 12 till 2 PM. Its lunchtime for the French and lunchtime is sacred for them. Pretty much no one works from 12 to 2, including shops, supermarkets, post offices, banks, business centers, and even some tourist attractions. If you're visiting a big city, you'll certainly find that some of these places are open. But in a small city or village, the life stops for a lunchtime.

All you can do in this case is get into the rhythm and just go with the flow. You might even like having a siesta and will have to break the habit of taking rest from 12 to 2, when you come back home.

2 The French Are So Nice (But Only If I'm Nice)

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A lot of people think that the French are rude, but when you come there, you'll see that they're rude only when you're rude to them. And vice versa, if you're nice to them, they'll also be nice to you.

Most of the time, rudeness comes from the misunderstanding between a French person and a foreign tourist. For example, few tourists know that even such a small thing as not saying Bonjour/Bonsoir before saying anything else is considered extremely rude by the French. This is the first and foremost rule when you're in France.

So be nice to the locals, and you'll see how nice the French can be in return.

1 France Is Awesome And I Want To Come Back!

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If you're nice to the French, don't hold on too much to some common stereotypes, and open up to new things, you'll certainly love this wonderful country and will want to come back there. You'll understand why it's one of the most visited countries in the world and why people like traveling there so much.

To get the best experience in France, get prepared for your trip. Find out as much as possible about the French culture and history, learn a few phrases in French, and turn on the polite curiosity mode. Try visiting big cities, as well as small villages to see the famous French charm and prepare to eat a lot of delicious food. Bon voyage! 

References: Traveller, Le Long Weekend, The Culture Trip, Oui in France

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