Au Revoir, Bangers and Mash: A Brit’s Guide to Parisian Peculiarities

Salut! I’m Jacob, a wide-eyed student from Durham University who’s traded in my cozy English tea for Parisian café au lait. My journey here in the City of Light has opened my eyes to the delightful quirks that set the French and the English apart. So, let me take you on a personal stroll through my experiences and revelations, sharing the ways in which life in Paris has thrown a few delicious curveballs my way.

I love Parisian Food – A Delicious Contrast

Right off the bat, I couldn’t help but notice the French approach to meals. In England, we’re notorious for our speedy dining, often treating dinner as a pit stop in the race of life. Some studies even suggest we dedicate a meagre 21 minutes to dinner on average!

But the French?

Well, they transform every meal into a work of art, leisurely spending an average of 2 hours and 21 minutes savouring their dinners. It’s like a culinary ballet, where food is not just sustenance but a celebration.

It’s a stark difference from the utilitarian approach back in England, where quick bites keep us fuelled for the daily grind. And of course, the food comes with talks and debates around everything.

If you want to know how to behave at the dinner table in France, read this!- 

Guide to Parisian Peculiarities

The most “bizarre” hierarchy at Work

My new colleagues at Absolutely French have been as warm as a freshly baked baguette, but I’ve heard stories from my English friends here about the hierarchical structure of the French workplace.

In France, job titles are more than just names; they’re a declaration of authority, and respecting seniority is practically a commandment. Everybody is a “chef”, and you often have several “chefs”: CEO, general manager, deputy manager, communication manager…

In England, we’re polite, of course, but the atmosphere is decidedly more relaxed and informal. Decision-making in France often rests with the folks at the top, with little input from the rest of the team. In contrast, in England, there’s a democratic spirit where everyone’s voice is welcome. Although I must say, the influence of multinational corporations and globalization has blurred these lines a bit in both countries, adding a pinch of spice to the mix.

Want to know how to adapt to the French world of work? Look no further: 

The hardest thing to get my head around: Greetings and ‘La Bise’ – A Mélange of Tradition

When it comes to greetings, I’ve discovered a delightful mix of tradition. In the UK, the professional standard is a firm handshake, a gesture that screams respect, especially when meeting someone for the first time. Over here in France, the professional handshake is equally important, aligning perfectly with their hierarchical system.

What are the English rules of hand shaking?

Among friends, greetings vary, depending on the depth of the relationship. In England, hugs are common but usually reserved for close pals.

Some opt for an informal handshake, a cheeky fist bump, or even the ‘elbow touch’ during COVID times.

In France, it’s quite similar, but they add ‘La Bise’ into the mix. It involves lightly kissing the cheeks of the person you’re greeting, with the number of kisses depending on regional and personal preferences. Most often (Paris), it’s one kiss on each cheek. Just remember if there is one thing you take from this guide to Parisian peculiarities, these are air kisses; it’s cheek-to-cheek contact with the sound of a quick kiss for good measure. 😗

Some people do one kiss, some two, some 3 and some even 4 (west part of France)! Here is a funny video about it!

Sporting Preferences – A Tale of Two Sports Worlds

Now, sports – that’s where things get really interesting. I love rugby and coming to France during the World Rugby Cup is just amazing for me. But not all the French love Rugby, and neither do the English.

While both England and France love their football and rugby, football reigns supreme thanks to its simplicity and universal appeal.

Rugby, particularly in the Southwest of France and South of England, has passionate followings, but it’s not limited to these regions.

Cycling is practically a religion in France, with the Tour de France being a prestigious global event. The French have a rich cycling history, and the love for biking is palpable throughout the country. In England, we enjoy cycling, but it doesn’t carry the same cultural weight (maybe because of the weather? 😄).

On the flip side, cricket, born in England during the 18th century, remains a beloved and popular sport, a sentiment not shared by our French friends (it’s too long for them, they can’t waste all this time, they have a dinner to eat!).

Punctuality Perspectives – A Timely Contrast

And then there’s punctuality, a topic that reveals intriguing differences. Of course, some of my friends even if they are English, are always late (Is this you?), and I know some French people that are always on time (there’s always exceptions).

In England, being on time is a mark of respect and professionalism. « Five minutes early is on time » is practically etched into our DNA. This punctuality ethos extends to the business world in France, but in everyday life and social gatherings, the French embrace ‘la flânerie.’

Yves Montand has even sung about this. “Flâner tous les deux”

Guide to Parisian Peculiarities

It’s the art of leisurely strolling through life, where enjoying the present moment takes precedence over strict schedules. It’s a concept that adds a touch of French flair to life, one that us English could learn a thing or two from.

Why are the English so stressed out about timings?


So, as I wrap up my thoughts, I can say that my year abroad in Paris has only just begun, and it’s already filled with cultural insights and memorable experiences. These societal differences between the French and English, from my perspective, are like the various flavours in a fine French wine – complex, nuanced, and something to be savoured.

People are like chameleons, adapting to their surroundings and the people they encounter, whether in their homeland or abroad. Moving to France is an enriching opportunity to embrace a new culture while holding onto my English roots; it’s a journey I’ll treasure forever. Do agree with this Guide to Parisian Peculiarities, let me know in the comments?

Cheers to the adventure and let’s have a glass of wine together (un Bourgogne s’il vous plait): Santé!

To learn more about the French social traditions have a read of


Guide to Parisian Peculiarities

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