A guide to some French traditions and customs

Whether touring through some of the wine regions of the south or seeing some of the iconic sights of Paris, visitors can expect to encounter a number of French customs and traditions.

Food – French cuisine is a must for all visitors to the country, and chefs really excel themselves in Paris and Lyon in particular. Meals often consist of three courses and some traditional French dishes that are worth trying include steak frites (steak and chips), coq au vin (chicken in wine sauce), beef bourguignon (beef stew), bouillabaisse (fish stew) and crème brûlée. French bakeries offering fresh baguettes and croissants are a huge part of French culture and are well worth visiting.

Dining – dining in France is a pleasure, but it can be useful to know what is expected from a visit to a restaurant. First, many people who have previously visited France pay a great deal of attention to their speaking volume. It is considered impolite to speak very loudly and conversations should be kept private.

Service in restaurants is generally not very fast and this is considered the norm. It is rude for a waiter to interrupt diners whilst they are eating so they expect to be flagged over if the diner wants the bill; customers are encouraged to feel welcome and stay for as long as they wish.

Holiday traditions – Poisson D'Avril can be translated as Easter Fish and is celebrated on 1 April. Traditionally, children make small paper fish and pin them to the backs of adults before running away and saying "Poisson D'Avril". Many shops also sell small chocolate fish on the day for a tasty treat.

Those lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a French wedding could see the traditional beheading of champagne bottles. A special sabre is used to behead the champagne bottles, a tradition which reportedly comes from when Napoleon commanded the Hussard horse soldiers to begin celebrations by neatly slicing the top off champagne bottles held in the air by ladies.

Image Credit: Marcel030NL (flickr.com)