How to Navigate French Culture Shock as an American Visiting France

Traversing a foreign country is always an adventure, but none compare to the immersive experience of visiting France.

For Americans, the culture shock in France can be quite jarring. From greetings to food to social customs, France can be a culture shock for anyone visiting for the first time.

In this post, we’ll explore some of the aspects of French culture that may initially surprise American visitors and offer tips on how to adapt to the differences.


The French language is considered one of the most beautiful and romantic languages in the world. That being said, it can also be one of the most difficult to master. French pronunciation and vocabulary are unique, and French locals can be quick to judge those who do not speak it properly.

To make the linguistic transition easier, try to learn some basic French phrases before you go, so you can communicate with locals confidently. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help or clarification if you don’t understand something – most French people will appreciate your effort.


In France, greetings are more formal than in the U.S. In formal situations, it’s customary to use titles and last names, even with strangers. A simple “Bonjour” or “Madame/Monsieur” upon entering a shop or restaurant is always appropriate.

Additionally, the French often greet each other with a kiss on the cheek. It may take some getting used to, but it’s a common custom in France. Just remember to start with the right cheek first!


French cuisine is widely regarded as some of the best in the world. But, American visitors may find some of the menu items daunting. Snails, frog legs, and liver pâté are all French delicacies that are definitely not for everyone.

But don’t worry, there are plenty of delicious options to suit your palate. French bread, cheese, and wine are all mouth-wateringly good. Also, don’t be shy about asking for vegetarian or gluten-free options, as these are becoming more common in the larger cities.

Social Customs

The French have a more relaxed attitude toward time than Americans. Punctuality is somewhat flexible and it’s not uncommon for meetings to start a bit late.

Additionally, the French enjoy long meals, especially dinner, and it is seen as a social event to enjoy good food and company.

Also, the French are more direct in their approach to communication and may come across as brusque or even rude to American visitors. Try not to take it personally and be aware that this is just a cultural difference.


Parisians are known for their impeccable sense of style, and fashion is an important part of French culture. Dressing well is respected and appreciated in France, so leave those yoga pants at home.

Bring clothes that are stylish and well-tailored, but also comfortable for walking around in. Don’t be afraid to add a scarf or accessory to your outfit – the French love adding that extra touch to an ensemble.


Visiting France is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but it can come with extensive culture shock. However, with a bit of research and a willingness to adapt, American visitors can fully enjoy everything France has to offer.

From the language to the food to the fashion, embrace the differences and soak in the rich history and beauty of this fascinating country. Bon voyage!

Allen Joe

Allen Joe is a writer for a piano blog. He has been playing the piano since he was a young child, and has always loved sharing his passion for music with others. Allen's writing focuses on helping people learn about different aspects of the piano and how to play it themselves.

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