In France, there are any number of persistent rituals, customs and traditions. Clichés about the French are often more or less accurate, but you still might sometimes be surprised.
Bonjour, bonsoir, salut or coucou?
Depending on the time of day or the person they're talking to, the French don't always use the same word in a greeting. If you're not sure, a simple “bonjour” avoids being too familiar, especially with someone you don't know.
Ever notice how the French kiss each other on the cheeks as a greeting? It's a ritual that may seem banal, but which is in fact very precise. You don't do the bise with everyone, nor in every situation. Depending on where you live, you do two, three or four bises, starting with either the right or left cheek.
The tradition of the "apéro"
The apéritif, familiarly called the apéro, is a real institution in France. It's a relaxed time spent with the family or friends before dinner. It's the time to have a drink while nibbling on something tasty. It is far from the most unpleasant of French traditions. You'll see; you'll soon develop a taste for it.
The cult of the baguette
If you have in mind a picture of a French person walking about with a baguette tucked under the arm, you won't be disappointed. The French do indeed adore bread and have developed a real cult of the baguette. And you shouldn't wait to do the same. The only question is if you prefer it with just a little crusty or well-done.
Picturesque expressions in French
French is full of vivid expressions: “tomber sur” (stumble upon), “jeter un œil” (cast an eye), “faire une nuit blanche” (do an all-nighter), “donner un coup de fil” (give a bell), “poser un lapin” (stand up)… It can sometimes be hard to figure out what they mean if you've never lived in France before. Don't hesitate to ask what these tirées par les cheveux (farfetched) expressions mean. A brief look at some French sayings to think about and use.
An obsession with cheese
As far as cheese goes, the reality far exceeds the cliché. The French love it. Hard and soft cheese, cow's milk cheese, goat's milk or sheep's milk cheese - there is a huge range of choice. You should easily be able to find one or two to your taste, before you become completely addicted.
A thousand and one clichés about the French
Frog-eaters, whingers, always on strike…: there are lots of clichés about the Sacrés Français! Some match reality, others are somewhat exaggerated - but you be the judge.