Today on the GoAbroad Blog, we are pleased to feature a guest post from Asbury University student, Katelyn Cook, where she offers a student perspective on making the most of a student exchange in France. Even as well-known known and popular a study abroad destination that France is, there are still many things to learn and understand about this dynamic country. Katelyn helps to shed light and offer advice to other travelers who might be interested in living and studying in France! Be sure to also talk with your university offices and advisors, who are there to guide you throughout your entire international experience!
Do you have tips that aren't included on this list? Share your own in the comments below!
France is a popular destination for zealous tourists, Francophiles, and cosmopolitans. Paris, the capital of France, is the forefront in fashion and the arts. Many people venture here to visit Parisian landmarks, buy elegant clothing, and enjoy fine dining and other delicacies that the city offers. Visitors yearn to discover for themselves the treasures of France, and what the French refer to as “joie de vivre,” which is the joy of living.
I delved deep into the French lifestyle this past summer as I became immersed in the rich culture of France. I acquired six credits of French at Jacques Lefevre Institute in Merville-Franceville, which is located in the Basse-Normandie region of France. Throughout my six-week stay, I had many memorable encounters and experiences that enabled me to embrace the diversity and marvel at the wonder of my surroundings. I learned to acclimate myself to France by bridging the cultural differences that exist.
With that in mind, here are five tips to keep in mind while on a student exchange in France!
Un: Be Respectful & Speak French
I learned from my experience there that the French appreciate manners. The French admire formality. It is a good idea to learn some basic French phrases. A simple bonjour can go a long way in France. When addressing an older French woman, say “Bonjour Madame.” A younger woman is referred to as "mademoiselle" and a man is called "monsieur." By addressing people by their titles, it shows courtesy and respect. While talking to a stranger, a person should refer to the individual as the subject "vous," because it is more formal and appropriate for the situation. The subject "tu," which means "you" in English, is reserved for friends and acquaintances. While saying goodbye to someone, it is customary to say “Au revoir.”
Other helpful phrases include the following:
- My name is: Je m’appelle …
- Please: S’il vous plait.
- Thank you: Merci.
- Do you speak English: Parlez-vous anglais?
- I don’t understand: Je ne comprends pas.
- I am sorry: Je suis desole.
- Excuse me: Excusez-moi.
Deux: Be Aware of Cultural Etiquette
The French are very reserved in their demeanor. When I was in various parts of the country, I noticed that the French do not like bringing attention to themselves. Some French people perceive Americans to be very loud and obnoxious at times. A tourist or traveler's goal should be to blend into the environment. Many travelers come to France without being aware of the cultural etiquette and customs that exist. Americans often arrive to the country and make an error, which the French refer to as "faux pas." American tourists tend to do things that the French feel uncomfortable with doing. Americans usually engage in conversation with strangers, maintain eye contact, and fail to converse in French. These obstacles for Americans can be overcome with practice, so there is no need to get discouraged.
The majority of French and Europeans tend to eat dinner at a much later time than Americans. Most restaurants don’t serve dinner until 8PM local time, and it was difficult for me to adapt to the late night eating at first. However, it just takes time to adjust to some of the differences. Many of the restaurants have their menus posted outside the building. The French usually know beforehand what they are going to order.
In America, it is common to eat a salad before having the main meal. In France, they eat their main meal first, and then they eat salad, because it cleanses the palette. They typically enjoy bread and cheese with the meal. Dinner can last several hours, as the French enjoy the art of eating and dining. It is considered perfectly fine for the French to eat with their forearms and hands on the table, so don't be surprised by this! They also enjoy talking with their hands. You might be interested to know that the French saying “Bon appetite” literally means good appetite!
Advice on dining out:
- Waiters/Waitresses don’t bring check to you, you must ask for it.
- Ask waiter for check by pretending to write a check in the air while saying: L’addittion, s’il vous plait
- The French don’t leave tips because the gratuity is included in the bill.
Quatre: Adapt to the French Lifestyle
Living in France is slightly different than living in America. It is important for a traveler to buy international phone cards if he or she wants to stay in contact with family and loved ones. These cards contain minutes that can be used while conversing on the phone. Some phone cards are international whereas others are specifically for France.
The cards are worth buying because they are less expensive than trying to use one’s cell phone. Cell phones are extremely expensive to use here due to roaming charges. A traveler needs to buy converters and a plug adapter of 220 or 240 volts for hairdryers, straighteners, razors, and other electronics.
Cinq: Enjoy France!
The trip can be even more enjoyable if the traveler has extra money for souvenirs. The French use the Euro currency. ATMs are available in close proximities to each other in Paris and other large cities. For shopping purposes, it is important to note that most grocery stores do not furnish bags for the customers. The French are very eco-friendly and green. The lack of bags might be an inconvenience for some people, but it is worth it to be able to take back something memorable. Good luck on your adventure to France!
Bonne chance et bon voyage!
Katelyn Cook is a junior journalism major at Asbury University. This past summer, she traveled to Franceville, France for 6 weeks of intensive study in French language courses and attended the Jacques Lefevre Institute’s Chez Vous Summer program at Domaine l’Estuaire. She learned a lot from this experience, and was able to hone her French speaking skills through her challenging classes. It is Katelyn's hope that her insight into her summer in France will encourage others to consider the wonderful opportunity that studying abroad offers. Bonne chance!