The Complete Guide to French Culture: Art, Cuisine, Fashion…

French culture in few words

French people are raised in a very specific culture, unique in the world.

Knowing the details of French culture can help you spend a more pleasant time during your stay in France. Indeed, you will see these details in all your interactions with French people and some information can save you in certain situations. 

On this page, in addition to informing you about the cultural aspects of everyday French life, you will also be informed about the areas in which the French are considered very talented if not innovators. To name few : art, literature, cuisine, architecture or fashion. 

For each area, we will recommend you activities to do in Paris for a stay in full immersion. Have a wonderful discovery !

Paris Opera in Paris in France

Tips about French culture

La Bise: The first thing you will notice during your trip in Paris is the way French people interact with each other. Friendly manners require to greet your friends with "La bise". This practice which consists of kissing someone's both cheeks several times (the number of times depends on the region you are in) is very common and sometime considered as rude if not respected. Nowadays, because of the worldwide pandemic, French people are slowly abandoning this practice and say they are quite happy about it because apparently, nobody really likes it ! No worries, as a foreigner, nobody will ever expect from you to do La Bise.

Dinning: The art of dinning is very complexe in French culture. We explain the details of a French meal below, but know that food is important and meals can last long, accompanied by wine, very long talks and deep conversations which can sometimes lead to debates.

Language manners: Although French people have the bad reputation of being grumpy people who complain all the time, they still have manners ! Saying "Bonjour" (Hello) is a must if you enter a shop, the bakery or the bus. Same for the formal "Au revoir" (goodbye).

French and English language: French people may have an international reputation in many fields, we can't admire them for their communication skills, specially in foreign languages. In other words, French people don't really speak or like to speak in a foreign language, not even in English. They usually stick to French language and expect foreigners to speak so. The rare ones who do speak English have a quite strong French accent and prononce the "R" sharply.

Public space: French people expect others to behave and be quiet in public spaces.

Clothing: Although French fashion is very popular all around the world, we can't say that French people show it in their regular life. Indeed, French wear basic toned clothing and don't go very eccentric in terms of colours or shapes of clothes. You may notice their very chic and sophisticated way of dressing though.

French Art

French art is an important piece of the French culture. France can fairly be said to have been a leader in the development of art in different forms.

From painting to sculpture, to the art of decoration or even the art of building fourniture, French people always innovate and prove to be creative minds. They dedicate a fair amount of time in the process of creation and value any kind of art. 

Because of this interest in art, the French have collected numerous collections over the centuries and you can see them in the museums in Paris.

Among the most popular French artists, you can find Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Pierre-August Renoir, Édouard Manet, Paul Gauguin, Camille Pissarro, Henri Rousseau, Auguste Rodin or Henri Matisse.

Where to find French art in Paris ?

Here are some places in Paris where you can admire the work of French artists :

  • Museum Rodin, a historical villa dedicated to the work of Auguste Rodin, in the 7th arrondissement of Paris.
  • Versailles Palace, the most know palace of the world, former house of the king, know museum of the History of France.
  • Museum Jacquemart André, a museum in the middle of Paris where you can admire a large collection of art as you visit the beautiful historical building. 
  • Centre Pompidou and its National Museum of Modern Art, the biggest center of modern art in Paris, ideal for contemporary art lovers.
  • Orsay Museum, considered the second best museum of Paris after the Louvre, displaying French art starting from the middle of the 19th century.
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French Cuisine

As said previously, the French have a very complexe relation to food. They are very passionate about what is in their plate and don't hesitate to spend hours in the kitchen to cook a dish. It is part of their culture ! That's probably why their cuisine is so rich and full of taste.

The best chefs of the world are French or have studied the art of cooking in France.

The French Cuisine is well know for many dishes like :

  • Foie Gras
  • Escargots (Snails)
  • Steak Tartare (Raw Steak)
  • Canard à l'Orange (Duck)
  • Coq-au-vin 
  • Bœuf Bourguignon (Beef Bourguignon)

But also special French deserts and pastries :

  • Croissant et pain au chocolat
  • Éclair au chocolat
  • Crêpe
  • Fondant au chocolat
  • Crème brulée
  • Macaron
  • Île flotante
  • Mille-Feuille

With a special mentions to the two mainly known elements of French cuisine : Fromage (cheese) and Vin (wine).

During gatherings, French people spend long hours at the table, eating numerous dishes in order :

  • Apéritif : commonly called the "apéro", it is a drink with alcohol to start the meal.
  • Entrée : the starter.
  • Plat : the main dish, either a piece of meat or fish with vegetables, salad or fries.
  • Fromage : some cheese.
  • Dessert : something sweet to end the meal.
  • Digestif : A drink with alcohol to finish the meal.

Obviously, each meal is not composed of so many dishes, only special ones are.

For lunch, French restaurant will usually offer either Entré + Plat or Plat + Dessert options.

Here are the articles we prepared you with all the best addresses of restaurants and cafés you can find in Paris :

French Architecture

Some of the best buildings and constructions of the world have been designed by French people. Just by walking around Paris, you will understand the expertise French people have in the field of architecture. Many styles have been invented by French architects like Romanesque, Gothic or Gallo-Roman style. 

Among the most renown architects of France, you can find Jean Nouvel (n°1 in the world), Paul Virilio, Claude Parent, François Seigneur, Jacques Ferrier or Nicolas Michelin.

Building to see in Paris

  • Pantheon is an Ancient Roman styled building worth visiting in Paris 
  • Sacré-Coeur Basilica is an amazing exemple of Roman Catholic construction
  • Louvre Museum and its pyramid are considered to be a successful modern construction of Paris 
  • Eiffel Tower, the Iron Lady, 300 meters tall, is one of the most impressive constructions of Paris
  • Arc de Triomphe, an impressive arch in the neoclassical architecture style
  • Notre-Dame Cathédral, with its Gothic style, is a gem of the French architecture
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French Literature

It is not a secret, French people have proven to be great readers and writers. We all know at least one French book from French literature. The greatest names of French literature are Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Albert Camus, Honoré de Balzac, Molière or Voltaire to name few.

You will notice French people reading in the public transport in Paris. Numerous book shops like Shakespeare and Co. are spread in the city and very precious for French people who think qualitative literature is essential to any civilisation. 

The intellectual quarter of Paris remain the Latin Quarter, where you can find the best cafés in Paris frequented by writers and the most important university of Paris, called La Sorbonne.

How to discover French Literature ?

Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris in France

French Fashion

What would be Paris like without the Fashion industry ? Over the years, Paris has build an iconic reputation for its French way of creating fashion. Many Haute Couture houses were originally created in the capital and shows are happening every year, gathering all the professionals and passionate people of the world.

French people don't even notice it anymore, but it is true that they have a certain sens of fashion that comes naturally. Even if they don't go very eccentric with their clothing, they always wear very elegant and classy clothing, for work or for special occasions. 

If you are passionate about fashion, you can visit the Museum of Arts Décoratifs in Paris or participate to a show or an exhibit happening in Grand Palais for the fashion week. Don't forget to book in advance if you want to have a spot !

Find the best addresses to shop in Paris in our following articles :

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is French culture known for ?

French culture is know for its fine cuisine and deserts, its beautiful buildings and monuments, its wine and cheese and its cinematographic skills.

What are the French good at ?

French people are considered good at Cuisine, Architecture, Art and Fashion.

What is the most popular cultural activities in France ?

Among the most popular cultural activities in France, you can find cinema, theater, museums, reading and visiting historical places. In Paris, French people love to go to :

  1. Eiffel Tower
  2. Louvre Museum
  3. Orsay Museum
  4. Cité de la Science et de l'Industrie
  5. L'Orangerie Museum

Find out more about French activities in the TOP 15 attractions in Paris.

What is the national motto of France ?

The French national motto is "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité", which means "liberty, equality, fraternity".

More ideas

What else can I do in Paris ? Here are plenty of ideas :

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