This might come as a surprise to those who know me well, but the version of Diane who now lives in France does a lot more observing than actual talking. I like to watch those around me, see how they act and speak and then do my best to adapt to the French way of life. Over the past couple of years, I’ve picked up on some French personality traits and habits that I find quite endearing.
5 Endearing habits of French people that you can’t help but love
Keep in mind that not all French people do these things and that it’s best not to put everyone into the same box. Get out, live a bit, mingle with the French and see what you think. These are my observations. No surprise that many relate to food. 😉
Using a grocery trolley (granny cart)
No matter one’s age, the use of a grocery store trolley is totally hip all over France and many parts of Europe. I wouldn’t be caught dead with one back in the US. I’m talking about those personal shopping carts on wheels that seem to be reserved for grannies back home. This shopping accessory is just as fashionable as it is functional, available in a variety of colors and patterns, and can fit into any budget.
Young shoppers use them just as much as the older folks — really! They roll so there’s no lugging heavy grocery bags back to your home, so if you live within walking distance to the market or grocery store, grab one for yourself and you’ll fit right in. This is one habit I absolutely picked up from the French. I saw how useful they were right after moving here and got a nice red shopping trolley from Rolser. I haven’t looked back since!
Saying “petit” before everything
OK, when you want to say the word grandson in French, you say petit fils. That’s normal. Or if you want to say that she is shorter than you, you’d say “elle est plus petite que moi.” These are all literal uses of the word petit, which can mean small (short in the case of height) and a few other things.
But what I find endearing is using petit(e) in a cutesy way like, “Oh, I’m having a petite soirée tonight with 100 people, you’re coming right?” Wait, petite and 100 people? Or asking a busy shop employee your “petite question” that spans on for a good 30 seconds. Even non-cutesy men say things like, “Do you want a petit café?” Or “On se fait un petit resto?” Listen for it — you’ll notice petit is used A LOT.
The way bakery employees twist the bag
All over France, you’ll notice a special way the boulangerie employees twist your bag of pastries before handing it over. And I love it. They put your treat in the paper bag, hold the two opposite corners of the bag, one in each hand, and then swing it around like it’s jumping rope so the edges twist and the bag is more or less closed. There’s no folding it neatly over the top. No scrunching it up. No stapling it or taping it shut. It’s the French twist — bakery style and it’s not particular to a specific region.
I smile every time someone twists my bag. Second fave? The pastry “cone.” If you buy something that doesn’t fit neatly in a box or bag, you’ll get paper cone-shaped packaging. It’s regular pastry paper assembled into a cone. You know what I’m talking about, right?
That whole apéro thing
If you’ve ever been to France, you’ve undoubtedly been asked if you’d like an “apéritif” when out to dinner at a restaurant. In this case, the waiter is asking if you’d like a drink before dinner — maybe a Martini or Kir. But the apéro I LOVE is the kind with snacks. It might look like a few bowls of little munchies like cheese balls and pretzels at a friend’s casual soirée, a bowl of peanuts at a restaurant bar to something more fancy at a formal meal — complete with a drink.
Apéro is a little snack and drink before the meal and is pretty much obligatory. The French aren’t big snackers but apéro is different. It’s almost like a warmup to the main meal and something I enjoy. Snacks and alcohol always equal a good time in my book, so the more apéro, the better!
That obligatory baguette
Baguette love is real! French people and their love of baguettes is one French stereotype that is not a stereotype at all — it’s pure truth! It’s commonplace to see a line out the bakery’s door at peak baguette times, and seeing a guy on his bike with his baguette or a passerby biting the tip off the baguette is the real deal. Be sure to know your baguette etiquette and you’ll do just fine. No shame in buying a baguette (or two) daily! You’ll fit right in.