Favorite French Customs and Traditions (and Quirks)!
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Opening the windows pour faire courant d'air -- this is but one popular French custom. Today we are talking about French traditions and quirks so get ready to share your observations here in the comments!
une bizarrerie (bee-zahr-reuhr-ree)
: a quirk or peculiarity
FAVORITE FRENCH TRADITIONS OR CUSTOMS (or Quirks!)
Today, following the Favorite French Words post, we are sharing our Favorite French customs and traditions. From habits the French have while eating--to the way they go about greeting--we are sharing our observations here in the comments box.
What kinds of things do the French do that intrigue or inspire you? Seen anything quirky or funny or intimidating or bizarre?
Share a cultural curiosity you have seen with your own eyes--or share something you've heard about!
Looking forward to reading YOUR observations about France and French customs. Click here to share something uniquely French.
Message to Jean-Marc. Bon anniversaire de mariage, chéri! Given today is our 20th wedding anniversary, I'll share a favorite French tradition: les dragées! You see these colorful sugar-coated almonds on wedding tables--each guest receives a handful of them--and at christenings. (Any celebration is a good excuse to enjoy them. You can order them here, at Amazon.)
Meantime, enjoying every moment with Dad while he is in France! Thanks to my belle-mère, Marsha, for this father-daughter snapshot taken in Cassis. Why the socks, Dad? Oh, I see: "Keeps the mosquitoes from biting!"... :-)
Marsha and Dad also celebrated 20 years of marriage. Bon anniversaire de mariage!
And yesterday, September 23rd, was my Mom's 68th birthday. I shared this photo and this message with her on my Instagram:
Celebrating Mom's birthday today. Wish we could be together, dressed in brightly-colored swimsuits, lipstick smeared across our cheeks--daring, finally, to live exactly as we please. (Photo taken today in Sanary-Sur-Mer)
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On my one and only tour through France, in 1996, we had french fries at a sidewalk cafe. Not one apology to ketchup, but once having been initiated to 'frites avec moutard.' Oooohlala... ;) no turning back.
Posted by: Sarahlee | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 12:28 PM
What a great September month! Happy birthday or anniversary to you all! love love love is in the air, how sweet!
We celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary last week & we're off to the Seychelles to start our next 30 years together! Loving, caring, and being loved... keys for a wonderful life!
Your photos are so lovely and... funny : they bring us sunshine, wherever we are! Thank you!
Posted by: Adeline Richarson Reunion Island | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 12:38 PM
Happy Anniversary! Most of all, THANK you for that beautiful word-picture of you and your mom, smeared in lipstick and living large! What a lovely wish. That brought such a smile to my heart. Joyeux anniversaire to Jules.
Posted by: joy | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 12:57 PM
Happy Anniversary, Kristin and Jean Marc! We leave for France today and hope we will have an opportunity to meet you. September is an important month for us as well with many birthdays to celebrate .
Posted by: Geraldine Ventura | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 01:00 PM
Love the charming window scene! I love the trois bisous! Maybe it is 3 in Belgium. I just love the kissing on each cheek! What's funny is while searching for spelling...is it bisous or bises? I found a site that tells you how many kisses according to region! How funny! http://combiendebises.free.fr/
I learned to get used to eating with my fork in my left hand and not to switch back, lukewarm coke, no window screens (how do you deal with all the flies?!)
Enjoy your day!
Posted by: Eileen deCamp | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 01:05 PM
In enjoy the politeness here in France. Going into shops you are greeted by a Bonjour, and always, always say please and thank-you. And one must not forget to say au revoir (good-bye) and Bonne journée when leaving. Also, any greeting with a friend must start with how are you and how is the family. Going to any club meeting, you greet (bisous) each person when you arrive. These are nice personal touches.
Posted by: Sue Klein , Bourgogne | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 01:06 PM
Coming from south Louisiana, we share many old French customs - and more than a few Acadian ones. Food is a special shared interest and I often make cassoulet in winter. Of course, that requires a fridge cleaning so I can identify left overs and I don't use my fireplace for that purpose but good, nonetheless.
It is wonderful to read of so many happy days spent with your family enjoying the French ambience.
Posted by: Fay Plauche' Butler | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 01:09 PM
When I was a child we lived in France. One dark, very rainy evening we were following a man on a bicycle wearing a rain poncho. When he approached the intersection where he was going to turn left, instead of sticking his arm our horizontally to signal a left turn, out from the slit in the poncho appeared a long loaf of French bread! How clever of him but I bet the family wondered why their banquette was soggy.
Posted by: Pamela ferguson | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 01:21 PM
un courant d'air = that brings back memories of my grandmother who always knew that there was a window open somewhere in the house creating a draft - "Il ya a courant d'air - va voir ou c'est."
Posted by: Claudette | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 01:54 PM
Je me Roselle les croque monsieurs!
Posted by: Lynnda Evans | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 02:06 PM
Oops, je me rapelle les croque monsieurs.
Posted by: Lynnda | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 02:07 PM
Visiting Paris some years back, I called a friend who lived there to arrange a lunch date.
Me: We'll pick you up at your apartment around noon.
She: You won't be able to get here. The Metro workers went on strike this morning.
Me: Well … I guess we could take a cab.
She: No need. The strike ends at noon. Meet me here at one.
(In the U.S., you see, strikes don't end until worker's demands are met or a compromise is negotiated. They last for weeks or months, not hours.)
Posted by: Bruce in northwest Connecticut | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 02:20 PM
Happy Anniversary! Two fave French customs:
1) As someone mentioned above, the practice of shopkeepers saying "merci, au revoir, and/or bonne journee" when you leave. If you engage them back (Merci, madame, au revior....), they'll keep at it! It could go on all day, but it's so charming.
2) Though I see this less, I love it when meat and sometimes vegetable purveyors at the markets give you some fresh parsley as a little gift with purchase
Posted by: Wini Moranville -- Chez Bonne Femme | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 02:53 PM
The custom here in the village of gifts of trays of apricots, peaches & apples from their orchards.(I make jam & chutney & freeze for winter)
I also like that in Supermarkets when one has finished at the checkout the girls always wish you "Bonne weekend, or Bonne continuation"
Likewise, whoever passes by, known or not ,adult or children or teenagers(!) it's "Bonjour Madame, bonne journée"
Lovely !! Happy anniverary
Posted by: Audrey Wilson | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 03:21 PM
Drinking sirop at cafés has always intrigued me about the French - love it!
Posted by: marjorie | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 03:38 PM
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY ! THE BAD - THE SMOKING ! THE GOOD - TOO MANY TO MENTION. I GREW UP IN A GERAMN TOWN ON THE BOARDER SO LOTS OF CUSTOMS WHERE SHARED. AS CHILDREN WE USED TO WAIT OUTSIDE THE CHURCH ON SATURDAYS BECAUSE WE KNEW THAT EITHER A WEDDING OR A CHRISTENING WOULD TAKE PLACE AND THAT THEY WOULD HAND OUT `LE DRAGEES ` LOVE THEM TO THIS DAY !
Posted by: SISSY | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 04:01 PM
My favorite French traditions that I experienced when I lived there were: Gallette de Rois, Oysters & Champagne at Christmas, and well...everything being closed on Sunday. What a treat!
Posted by: Erica Simoneaux | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 04:31 PM
There are almost too many, bur I'll name a few. Putting your comforter from your bed in the bedroom window in the morning to air it out. Patiently standing in line while an older man or woman has a long discussion with the shopkeeper (boulangerie, charcuterie . . .) while everyone else in line waits with similar patience. French men and women in nice restaurants with little dogs. CV4's. The French shrug. Vide greniers. Tiny fetes where mergueze, frites are served at 10 in the morning. The Sunday afternoon promenade in our port (Roanne) where it isn't unusual to see four generations walkiIng together. Enough. This is a lovely country to live in.
Posted by: Randy Komisarek | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 04:38 PM
PAIN AU CHOCOLAT ! When we are in France we are always in search of the best Patisseries - that make the most delicious pain au chocolat. I love the dipping of them into coffee and it dripping and flaking everywhere. Nothing like a fresh out of the oven, first thing in the morning "Pain Au Chocolat" !
Posted by: Patricia - Vancouver | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 04:51 PM
des milles feuilles! Fantastiques!
Posted by: Louis Flohr | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 05:09 PM
Happy anniversary! We are traveling in France and spent a week in Florence area for our 40th anniversary...lovely, but France is in our hearts.
Over 20 years of coming to France we have many favorites customs ... Many already noted. Being a dog lover..I love everyone can take them almost everywhere. Enjoy your a Dad and family this week!
Posted by: Jackie Miller | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 05:12 PM
We love kir peche. It's so refreshing, especially if you can have it sitting outside at a cafe.
Posted by: Barbara Kelley | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 05:24 PM
Moi aussi j' habite à la Louisiane (Lafayette-better known as Acadiana or "Cajun" country. Mon anniversaire de 71 ans était samedi le 20. Thank you for reminding me that part of my bucket list is to be more daring & to do exactly what I want to do when I want to do it...almost!
Bonne anniversaire à tout!
Posted by: Faye Stelly | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 05:34 PM
great picture shares, and what would be your favorite customs..as you have raised your children in France they have French customs..when I returned to the States, or when they visited me in France..they though my "adaptions" strange..to me they had become normal.
Posted by: Catharine Ewart-Touzot | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 06:22 PM
The 13 desserts at Christmas (dans le sud), aperitif before wine (I get strange looks when I do that here), breaking the baguette from only one end, and one of my favorites - although I wouldn't partake in this now - wine served in the high school cafeteria for teachers, and during lunch for military :)
Posted by: ExExpat | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 06:32 PM
The French never forgot their military of WW 1 & 2. Towns , villages & cities did not cover over wounds of war on buildings from bullet holes and placed names of locals on war memorials in prominent display. They remember the American help.
I like their love of dogs who can sit at the table at La Cournne in Rouen across from their master!
Posted by: Corinne | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 06:42 PM
Happy anniversary, Kristin and Jean-Marc, and Dad and Marsha! A belated Happy Birthday to Jules!
What I can never get right in France is how many times you kiss someone on the check - in Pau, it was three (or was it four) times, in Dijon, it was twice, what's the rule and what are the regional dividing lines??
Posted by: Bill in St. Paul | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 06:45 PM
Another is the sacoche - my son had to have one in France. After wearing it one day to school in the US, that thing never came out of his closet again.
Posted by: ExExpat | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 06:47 PM
I loved how well behaved the dogs were in Paris. I saw dogs walking down aisles in big department stores sans leash with their owners.
There are so many things, but one more is that the man selling bread in the bakery wouldn't let me buy a loaf of bread after a certain time in the day. He said it was no longer fresh.
In America, grocery stores put the oldest fruits on the top and the fresh on the bottom. In Paris, the shopkeeper picked the freshest himself and handed them to me.
Love that place!
Posted by: Fox and Finch | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 07:01 PM
Wishing you "Bon Anniversaire de Mariage" dear Kristin and Jean Marc! Today is also Shannon's and Al's 25th anniversaire ... and .. grandson Sean's 23rd birthday. Much to celebrate!
Favorite tradition: Kissing on the cheeks
Posted by: June Kelly | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 07:54 PM
Happy Birthday, Jules! I miss reading your comments. I hope you are well and busy painting beautiful scenes. Congratulations and best wishes to the two wedding anniversary couples!
French movies are wonderful ... especially those of Jacques Tati. There is so much detail and comedy in his portrayal of Monsieur Hulot! They are old films but they are timeless. Amitiés à tous.
Posted by: Cynthia Lewis | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 08:40 PM
Happy Anniversary to all!! I love French movies. My favorite is: Un Conte de Noel --- A Christmas Tale. It is the typical American dysfunctional family --- only French! Watch it without the subtitles. My 2 favorite French actors : Catherine Deneuve & Matheu Amalric as mother & son: Priceless.
Have fun with your family! Be well.
Posted by: Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 09:10 PM
Food rituals . . . watching a burly truck driver neatly and daintily cut his 3 or 4 choices of cheese from the communal platter; eating asparagus and frog legs with abandon with one's fingers, but ALWAYS eating pizza and fried chicken with a knife and fork. And yes, Randy, the Sunday promenade (12 years in port of Roanne!)
Posted by: Karen Greenfield | Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 09:13 PM
Handing out muguet on May 1st. My daughter's friends came to my house to bring me sprigs of this lovely flower during our sabbatical year in France. What a sweet surprise!!
Posted by: Janine Cortell | Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 12:56 AM
The sugar cubes at cafes wrapped in paper with pretty designs on the wrapper. Thanks for the bisous link from earlier commenter. French friend coming to visit, now I know the appropriate number of cheek kisses.
Posted by: kipper | Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 03:20 AM
I was told that women NEVER pour the wine at gatherings or at table in a restaurant. It is always the man's job....
hmmm. Interesting. But I sort of love it that my honey pours my wine, sort of sexy.
Also I love it that if you see a friend you know talking to someone, even if it is someone you know, too, it is best just to say bonjour and move on--do not interrupt their conversation. I love that because it's a politeness that we Americans do not honor much.
Posted by: Suzanne Dunaway | Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 04:41 AM
My homesickness triggers are peppered in these posts!
Definitely miss a real window without the fly-screen.... leaning over and chatting with a neighbour.
Always un pincement de coeur on first of May, le temps du muguet.
Lilacs in full bloom..
Escargots à la charette in Brussels streets. Gaufres de Liège.
Les bisous, naturellement.
Lastly, défense de marcher sur le gazon!
Posted by: Jacqueline | Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 08:38 AM
Just went to a wedding reception here in California and there were dragées in little white boxes at each person's place setting. Here in the U.S. we call them "Jordan almonds". Why "Jordan"? Je ne sais pas!
A French custom I'd like to change because I love "café au lait" any time of the day is the custom of only having it for breakfast.
Posted by: Barbara P. | Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 08:42 AM
Bon anniversaire, Kristin et Jean-Marc! And thank you for the lovely photos and humorous and genuine stories of your life in France. My husband and I are now in Sancerre while I attend French classes at Coeur de France. I'm loving the melodic French of the locals, how friendly the boulanger and other shopkeepers can be when you greet them with "Bonjour, monsieur/madame!" And how they do keep saying "Bonne journée" and "vous aussi" over and over. Each day I feel more at home. I just hope my French improves!
Posted by: Lorena Meunier | Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 09:32 AM
My mouth waters at the memory of the fantastic displays of cheese - what to choose! And of course the fabulous pates and baguettes and where else do you have your gateaux and patisseries presented in a pretty box?
So many delightful memories of a beautiful country!
Love your photography and your stories Kristin..and your books, all three.
Best wishes and Bon anniversaire to you and John-Marc.
Posted by: Heather stove | Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 01:25 PM
Bon anniversaires à tous.
The good: Bonjour/bonjournée entering and leaving shops. Real service at small shops. Vendors at the markets always offering a taste or adding a little something extra to the order. Well behaved dogs welcomed almost anywhere. Many more but these are a start.
The bad: Smoking smoking smoking. Eating pizza with forks. Not being able to order pizza ingredients à la carte. Not picking up after those well-behaved dogs. Tail-gating drivers in Paris. Transportation strikes at the drop of a hat (since we don't have a car in our city, we are often inconvenienced by them and never feel secure we'll be able to take the train to CDG airport at the appointed time to leave).
Posted by: Julie Farrar | Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 04:13 PM
So happy you are putting family first! Everyone needs a break and I love hearing about French customs. I've been to France several times and have read books on customs, but I've never lived there. I know that's the only way to experience it all. My favorite thing about France and the French is the personal touch in everything: from greetings to goodbyes, entering and leaving shops,special wrapping when buying a gift. Politeness lives on. Vive la France! Kristin, this may seem "dark," but I know nothing of funerals in France. Surely people must die there. I've googled it, looked in books of culture, etc. Some day maybe you can weave it into one of your unique musings. French Word-A-Day rocks!!
Posted by: Diane Heinecke | Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 06:09 PM
I don't know if this is actually a "custom," but a fond memory I have is from a trip to Paris my husband and I made in the early 80's. It was in the Winter; a very cold day - we were just walking out of a Metro station when a man with a portable waffle maker (attached with a strap round his neck) made a waffle for us right there on the street! It sure tasted good with sucre and confiture on the cold winter afternoon in Paris. Happy Anniversary to you both!
Posted by: Robin Lewin | Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 06:56 PM
Comforters over the window sills; "bah, oui" interjected in conversations; the ritual dance when sitting down for a meal at the restaurant or when guests are there for dinner, sorting out who will sit where; 2 signs, pointing in opposite directions, both saying "direction Paris". Of course part of the fun for us were the non-cognates: obliterating or composting tickets, cars for grand "occasion" (used cars actually), among some of them. My friend loved the image that came from the roadside warning sign "Chutes de Pierres", picturing a waterfall-like feature, with many Frenchmen called Pierre tumbling after one another.
Posted by: Carolyn R Chase | Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 07:44 PM
Happy Anniversary Kristin and Jean-Marc!
One of my favorite, because it is something I will never completely understand, is the need to iron! All my French friends iron everything, yes clothes, but also kitchen towels, sheets, etc. I have one friend who confided in me that his mother also irons underpants and socks!!!
While I agree that clothes look better ironed, and ironed sheets are so soft, I just can't be bothered for most things.
So, while I laugh at them, my friends are laughing right back - at me.
Posted by: Melynie | Friday, September 26, 2014 at 03:50 AM
We have just come back from 4 months in the Charante Maritime where we have just started running our own gites. Absolutely loved it. However, after eating dozens of bowls of moules, in our last week there we saw a family eating them by using the first moule shell to firstly pluck a mussel from its shell then pair it with a frite (chip) before popping it in the mouth. It made perfect sense! Why had we not known that before? We always make a mess of ourselves with the delicious sauce! :-) Can't wait it next time we're there.
Posted by: Margy in Australia | Tuesday, September 30, 2014 at 10:37 AM
I love long leisurely meals at restaurants, the care and thought put into food preparation at even the most humble establishment, stopping at small vineyards to taste wine, la politesse (bonjour, aurevoir, bonne journee, etc), the response when one says "j'ai une probleme" or when you are observed having a problem (so many people step up to help you!).
One strange custom: when french friends visited us at our holiday rental about ten years ago they would always reach into the pool and splash water on the back of their necks before jumping in. Finally we could resist no longer - "why?" we asked. They explained that it was to acclimate one's body to the much cooler temperature of the water before submersion thus avoiding a potential stroke. We assured them that we never followed this practice (we are a family of competitive swimmers and live at pools) and are happy to report that none of us has ever suffered a stroke (so far).
Posted by: Susan Naperville, IL USA | Wednesday, October 01, 2014 at 10:27 PM
I am in France, having spent nearly four weeks in the lovely town of Collobrieres, not far from Toulon and the Mediterranean! I too am studying French, but with a resident of the village who used to be a teacher. This is a wonderful way to improve your French and is much more personal! I have loved La Fete de la Chataignes (Festival of Chestnuts) held in this village every year on the first three Sundays in October! Tous les Mondes descends on this lovely village and there is much to see and experience! I also learned this week that when buying du pain, it is unlucky to lay the bread on its face or upside down on the counter. I never knew this and it was explained to me at length by several people at my local Patisserie just below my apartment. Do try the personal way of studying French with a local resident. I think many retired French teachers might welcome this opportunity. Cheryl Kellogg, St. Louis, MO
Posted by: cheryl kellogg | Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 03:19 PM