5 Endearing habits of French people that you can’t help but love

Written by Diane on. Posted in France, on life in France

french habits i love

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.

Here they are…

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!

French things I don’t do >>

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 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?

french-apero-habit

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!

How my eating habits have changed since moving to France >>

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.

Quirks you notice about your French husband >>

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What habits of French people do you find endearing?

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Lou Messugo
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Comments (12)

  • Taste of France

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    Big yes on all points! Among my friends, un p’tit apéritif dînatoire is fashionable–acknowledging that the better the apéro, the less appetite for a big dinner after, so why not just stick with apéro? It becomes a well-rounded meal of snacks–tapas or meze, really.
    Another thing I love is the way right now everybody, even people you don’t know, wish you best wishes for the new year, “and above all, good health.” Even I say it, to the letter, to everybody. And the thing is, it’s heartfelt.
    Taste of France recently posted…Roman Ruins in FranceMy Profile

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  • Terry Harrell

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    I LOVE baguettes. I very much miss not having a daily or even twice a day French baguette!

    Reply

  • Richard

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    I really enjoyed this, Diane! For a long time I thought “petit cafe” was just one word, like a brand name. Other potentially confusing uses: “Petit moment” (look out – it probably means 15-20 minutes) and “petite questions” (your whole argument, so carefully presented over the last 60 minutes, is about to be discredited)… All of these habits ring true to me.

    Reply

  • Lillian Small

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    This post brought a smile to my face! It’s so true – I love all those things. Even I used a granny grocery cart! Happy New Year Diane.

    Reply

  • June de Silva

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    Great post! I must admit I’m a huge fan of l’apéro…especially if it’s a kir or a kir royal !

    Reply

  • CatherineRose

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    I love all these things! Well, I never got into using a trolley, but I can’t deny that they are practical and popular. I still use my handy Monoprix bags. I remember noticing the frequent use of “petit” and now I can’t even talk without saying it. Apéro and the boulangerie are my two favorite French things!
    CatherineRose recently posted…100th Post: Looking back at 3 years of bloggingMy Profile

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  • Julie Whitmarsh

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    I love Baguettes of course & have smiled myself at the use of the word petit. My favourite on the list though is an Apero – we’ve had many a pleasant evening with neighbours over an apero & have also been to 2 apero-dinatoires, which I would best describe as a drink with a picky-supper – lots of tasty treats from olives to pates, salad & quiche – simple and delicious! #AllAboutFrance

    Reply

  • GGG

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    As always your observations are right on target! Thanks for sharing and making me smile… Still haven’t purchased one of those carts, but they are indeed a great idea and I would surely fit in with one!

    Reply

  • JanetT

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    I love that French people can rock a granny cart, I am actually envious because it is so darn practical. I always secretly wanted one but it would not suit me here in the UK, my friends would make unkind remarks!
    JanetT recently posted…Encouraging New Parents – Using ShepherdsMy Profile

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    • Diane

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      Are they not popular in the UK? Even in big cities? They really ARE practical but honestly I was hesitant to buy one because it was something my grandma and her friends used. Maybe you can start a new trend 😉

      Reply

  • Phoebe | Lou Messugo

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    Now you mention it, I rather like that little word too! Un petit mot with lots of weight. I adore my granny cart, go to and host apéro dinatoires regularly and couldn’t live without my daily baguette! I guess I’m quite French! Thanks for linking up to #AllAboutFrance again

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