France is one of the most popular study abroad destinations in the world. There is a certainje ne sais quoi about life in France. With all of the good food, fine art, and high fashion, life in France just seems more romantic and beautiful. Many aspiring study abroad students yearn to discover for themselves the treasures of living in France, and what the French refer to as joie de vivre, or the joy of living.
To really get to know and understand life in France, you need to acclimatize to French culture by bridging the many cultural differences you’ll encounter. Studying abroad in France is about more than just handing in your assignments on time; follow this guide to studying in France to find out how to embrace French culture and reap the rewards of living in one of the most exciting countries in the world.
The French are very reserved in their demeanor. In general, French people do not like bringing attention to themselves. Therefore, some French people perceive Americans to be very loud and obnoxious at times. International students should make it their goal to blend into the environment as much as possible while studying in France.
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. For example, Americans usually engage in conversation with strangers, maintain eye contact, and fail to converse in French, all faux pas in French culture. Always remember, these obstacles can be overcome with practice, so there is no need to get discouraged on your first day!
Dinner can last several hours, as the French enjoy the art of eating and dining. Meals are very sociable occasions, and if you are invited to someone’s house for dinner, don’t be surprised if it lasts for several hours. Sometimes a walk is squeezed in between courses, to give diners a chance to digest a little before moving on to the next lavish dish. Lastly, of course, don’t forget to always say bon appetit before eating!
Immerse yourself in French culture right from the debut. That means picking up on French cultural habits, and getting into the swing of la vie francaise. Embrace everything that is typically French (yes, that means thela bise, kissing people on the cheeks to say hello and goodbye). Sundays are nearly sacred in France, so instead of complaining that all of the supermarkets are ferme, do as the French do and enjoy a day of relaxation and quality time with the people you care about.
Speaking of supermarkets, you should learn to love food lovingly made from quality ingredients. This is the secret to why French food is just better. Skip the commercialized supermarket fare and shop at your local market, where you will find stalls overflowing with fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh fish, local cheesemongers, homemade croissants, and all sorts of other delicacies. Markets are an integral part of life in France, and just picking up your week’s groceries is much more enjoyable when it is practically a cultural event.
Lastly, invest in a nice scarf and a giant pot of Nutella (then eat it with everything), and just accept that dog poo is a feature of Parisian streets. You will end up loving even the strangest quirks of the French lifestyle.