The do's and don'ts of France

By: Natalie Porter
Published October 29, 2010

"Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux." 
             --Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.  


I can still see this quote written on the blackboard of my French II high school classroom as though my teacher had imprinted it in all its chalky glory and swirly cursive lettering directly on my brain. Translated, it means “This is my secret. It is very simple: One sees clearly only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eyes.”     

My teacher told us to keep this in mind as he presented us with the opportunity to enroll in a   high school program in France . The opportunity to engage in a language program in France allows students to be immersed in both the language and the culture while having the promise of a life changing experience. However, at the time I couldn’t see with my heart, I could only see with my eyes- and what my eyes saw was A LOT of money. Fast forward four years later, and again I’m presented with the opportunity to study abroad in France. This time I am closing my eyes, following my heart and choosing to spend the summer abroad in France.

Summer programs in France offer some incredible opportunities. Whether you are looking for language programs in France, France internships, or just a general French cultural experience, there is a program out there to meet your needs. Although I will not be spending a semester in France, I will still have the opportunity to see most of the key landmarks and have the important experiences more traditional study abroad programs in France offer. I want to be as prepared as possible so I’ve asked a few peers about their study abroad experiences in France. Here’s what they had to say.

“The Sacre Couer, Montmartre, Notre Dame Cathedral, Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Elysees, the Louvre, Musee D’Orsay, Luxembourg Gardens, the Latin Quarter, and Versailles chateau are all must-sees!” says Monica Kramer, a recent college graduate who studied abroad in France as an undergraduate and is now pursuing her master’s degree in France.  

Another undergraduate, Hope Swenson, who had the opportunity to study abroad in France says, “it’s important to get a guide book and mark every where you want to visit and then when you have free time, pick a place and go. In Paris, I had art classes in the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay. While there, we had a student pass so we could go as often as we wanted. I regret not going more!”

In addition to having a blast and making the most out of my experience, I want some tips on what not to do so I can avoid sticking out like a sore thumb! Monica and Hope composed this list of tips for me to be just a little more “French” and don’t worry, beret wearing did not make the list.   

1. Speak the language
French is the national language so always attempt to speak in that language before anything else.  Even if you aren't fluent, it shows effort and consideration this way.  Most French people can speak a little English if necessary. 
2. Slow down
Don't be surprised when eating at a restaurant if the waiter or waitress does not give you your check immediately after your meal.  Normally, you have to ask for your check.  The French do not like to rush their meals, rather they want you to enjoy your food and relax.
 3. Kiss on the cheek
When French people meet each other, they will kiss each side of the cheek at least one time.  Personal space has a different definition in France so don't get uncomfortable if someone is too close for your comfort.  It's natural for them.


Armed with this list of must-sees and cultural do’s and don’ts (the beret may be packed too, just for good measure) I’m ready to begin my summer program in France!
Learn more about studying abroad in France.

Natalie is currently earning her bachelor’s degree in English and Political Science at Temple University. She studied abroad in France during the summer of 2011.