Ming the Mechanic:
Social Norms

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Social Norms2004-05-01 18:42
by Flemming Funch

Le Danois:
"An example of the differences between the French and the Danish social norms is the fact that in France you act much more politely with your colleagues than you would in Denmark. French people might not see themselves as being very polite, but as a Dane I see it that way. Let's take an example: When I get to the office in the morning I go from office to office and kiss the girls on the cheeks and shake the hands of the guys. I also have a short chit chat with most of them. Now this might not seem like odd behavior for a French person, but for a Dane it's quite different from what we're used to. First of all in Denmark I would rarely shake the hands of the colleagues I see everyday, actually it can sometimes be a way of showing distance, in the sense that you approach them in a more official way. One thing's for sure, you definitely shouldn't try to kiss the women at the office, at least not if you don't know them very very well. In Denmark we also have a strong tendency to not hide which persons we like and which ones we dislike. It's not weird to ignore people at an office in Denmark. It's actually very weird for a Dane to be very polite with someone you don't necessarily like or respect."
It takes a little getting used to. Not the being polite part itself. But I'm not totally into the French rhythm yet. One shakes hands with the men and kisses the cheeks of the women. But what when one first is briefly introduced to them? The same mostly, and shaking hands with women isn't really what one does. [Correction: See the comments] But it can be hard to develop the right reflex. When we first got here, I thought I had figured out what cheek one kisses first, but really there's no rule for that. Anyway, it is a pleasant ritual, actually. Although I miss hugging, which the French interestingly tend to find a little too intimate compared with kissing on the cheek.

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2 May 2004 @ 07:06 by ming : Kissing
Ah, that clears that up a bit. I was at a pub last night, and introduced to a bunch of people I didn't know, and I couldn't figure out if I should kiss on the cheek or shake hands, and it didn't look like the women were quite sure what I'd do either.

Yeah, I notice that with young people it is more clear. When Marie-Therese had thirty people over for a party, Alliance Francaise students, the rule was obviously that one systematically kisses everybody on the cheek. Just do the math of that.

I'm glad that at least it is only two cheeks in this area.  

4 May 2004 @ 14:24 by Shane @ : gros bisou
From my experience after living two years here in Normandie, I would agree with Thomas, you won't go wrong shaking hands first. Kisses are normally expected from next meeting onward. I have found it's always a peck on the right-cheek followed by the left. Sometimes there is barely any physical contact, just a "kissing sound" made through pursed lips. No-one mentioned the case when men "faire bisou" with other men. This is considerably more rare, more likely to happen between close or old friends, with someone from an Arab country, or in an "adieu" situation. As for your experience in the office, I would imagine it's fairly standard in France. When I was working in Strasbourg, it was virtually obligatory to do "the rounds" the moment you enter the office. In fact it's pointless to start any real work until everyone is in the office and have done their rounds. Ironically, it wasn't considered necessary to smile. I noticed the handshaking tradition was abandoned when I worked Paris. Perhaps it was due to the particular team being more international. Fascinating country.

On another subject, he anyone found any good French blog sites?  

4 May 2004 @ 17:27 by ming : Right-left
Hm, in Toulouse there doesn't seem to be any order to les bises. At least to me. I was sure I had pinpointed first that it was right-cheek, left-cheek. But if I tried to hold on to that, there would be more of those awkward moments of confusion, when the other person had something else in mind. Now when I don't expect any order, it is easier, as you just need to pay attention.

I list a few French blog sites in my sidebar. But I haven't really looked around much recently. I'm sure there must be a lot by now.  

11 Aug 2006 @ 20:43 by Sara @ : advice?
Do any of you have any advice for someone moving from the United States to France? Any general information you could give me on French social norms would be very helpful to me.Thanks.  

18 Apr 2007 @ 06:24 by Clare @ : french values
This is a bit off track but im doing an assignment on the french values related to communication styles.... If anyone has any information, tips, ideas, websites, ect wld love to hear them.  

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