In all major cities, there are multiple companies offering residential broadband service. Typical prices are €30 a month for unmetered ADSL in speeds up to 24 megabits per second, digital HDTV over DSL and free unlimited voice-over-IP phone calls to land lines within France and about twenty other countries EU,US,... with external SIP access too the price includes a modem/routeur/switch with integrated Wi-Fi MiMo access point. Broadband services are very common in France, all over the country.
You'll also find Wi-Fi access in a lot of cafés usually those labelled a bit "trendy". There will be a sign on the door or on the wall. Also look for the @ symbol prominently displayed, which indicates internet availability. In Paris, one popular Wi-Fi free spot is the Pompidou Centre. There is talk that the city intends to become the first major European capital providing free Wi-Fi coverage for the whole city. Public parks and libraries in Paris are also covered.
These calls are free and accessible from virtually any phone, including locked cellphones. In case of a serious emergency, if you find a code-protected cellphone, enter a random code three times: the phone will lock, but you will be able to dial emergency numbers.
To call a French number from abroad, dial: international prefix + 33 + local number without the leading 0.For example: +33 247 664 118
All French numbers have 10 digits. The first two digits are:
You cannot drop the first two digits even if your call remains within the same area. The initial '0' may be replaced by some other digit or longer code indicating a choice of long-distance operator. Don't use this unless explicitly told to.
When speaking phone numbers, people will usually group the digits by sets of two. For example, 02 47 66 41 18 will be said as "zero two, forty-seven, sixty-six, forty-one, eighteen" but in French, of course. The two-digit pair 00 is said as "zero zero", not "double zero". for example if your phone number is 02 47 66 41 18 in France, it would be said as "zéro deux, quarante-sept, soixante-six, quarante et un, dix-huit." Difficulties can arise when numbers between 60 and 99 exist in the phone number, as the French word for seventy, "soixante dix" literally means "sixty ten", the word for eighty, "quatre-vingt" means "four-twenty" and ninety, "quatre-vingt-dix" means "four-twenty-ten". So when giving a number such as "72", you might hear "soixante", start writing a 6, and have to correct yourself when the number turns out to be "soixante-douze".
If you find it too hard to follow, you may ask the person to say the number digit-by-digit "chiffre par chiffre". It would then be "zero, two, four, seven, six, six, four, one, one, eight" "zéro, deux, quatre, sept, six, six, quatre, un, un, huit".
You can to visit International Dial Code Directory to find instructions about the nationals and internationals calls.
There are few companies that provide toll-free numbers starting with 08 00 but many have numbers starting with 081, for which you pay the cost of a local call regardless of where you are in the country.
Numbers starting with 089 are heavily surcharged. They provide service to some legitimate businesses but the ones you see advertised all over the country are usually for adult services.
Dial-around services are directly available from any landline in France. No contract, no registration is required. Most dial-around services allows you to call USA, Canada, Western Europe and many other countries at local rate tarif local so you can easily save on your phone bill. They also work from payphones, though the first minute is surcharged by France Telecom.
You can also use Viber, WhatsApp, FaceTime using your phone and a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. This is probably one of the cheapest solutions for travellers in France.
To find out how to get a landline ligne fixe in France Just Landed gives more information on the subject of French landline providers. Another method, if you are staying for a long period, is to use VoIP over DSL, such as the Livebox or Freebox service free long distance calls within France and to a number of countries.
Phone booths are available in train or subway stations, bus stops, near tourist attractions, etc. There is at least one phone booth in every village look on the main plaza. Due to the widespread use of mobile phones, there are now fewer booths than a few years ago. Most use a card no coins. France Télécom public phones accept CB/Visa/MasterCard cards but almost always only with a microchip. Otherwise, post offices, café-tabacs recognizable by a red sign hanging outside, and stores that sell magazines sell phone cards. Ask for a "carte telephonique"; these come with differing units of credit, so you may want to specify "petit" if you just want to make a short local call or two. If you get the kind with a computer chip in it, you just have to slide it into the phone, listen for the dial tone, and dial. The US-style cards require you to dial a number and then enter a code but with spoken instructions in French.
France uses the GSM standard of cellular phones 900MHz and 1800MHz bands used in most of the world outside of the US. There are 4 'physical' network operators in France: Orange, SFR, Bouygues Télecom and Free Mobile. Other providers are mobile virtual operators based on Orange, SFR or Bouygues Télécom. France is almost totally covered but you may have difficulties using your mobile phone in rural or mountainous areas. However, for emergency numbers, the four companies are required by law to accept your call if they technically can, even if you are not one of their customers, thus maximizing your chance of being helped even in areas with spotty service.
If you are staying for some time in France it is advisable to buy a prepaid SIM card for your phone so that incoming calls are free. Additionally, French businesses and individuals are unlikely to want to call an international number to get hold of you as there will be a surcharge to them. Most service providers such as Orange, SFR and Bouygues Telecom supply SIM cards in shops; for instance Orange promotes Orange holiday, which allows you to use 120 international minutes and 1000 texts within all Europe + 1GB data in France for about €40. The plan can be purchased quite easily in Orange shops.But be aware that the credit expires when you do not top-up.
If you want to sort out your phone before you leave, LeFrenchMobile provides a prepaid service for foreigners coming to France. You do not always need identification at the point-of-purchase but you need to be have your personal details including an address: your hotel address will do in-hand to activate the service, even on prepaid lines. Another company that can help you efficiently sort out your international sim card needs is TravelSim. Their prepaid sim card is one of the cheapest on the market and, since it is a callback service, your can save up to 85% on your roaming charges. Additionally, all incoming sms and Skype calls are free on TravelSim numbers. With this sim card you can easily make phone calls in France and when you go outside of the country.
Lebara offer relatively cheap pre-pay data plans. €8 for 1GB If your phone doesn't access the internet correctly you may need to manually set your phones' "access point name" username/pass to web/web.
See also: French phrasebook
L'anglais et les FrançaisYes, it's true: while most people in France under the age of 60 have studied English, they are often unable or unwilling to use it. This is not necessarily linguistic snobbery, but is usually due to lack of practice, or fear that their little-used-since-high-school English will sound ridiculous. If you really must speak English, be sure to begin the conversation in French and ask if the person can speak English, as assuming someone can speak a foreign language is considered very rude. Please note that British English, spoken with the carefully articulated "received pronunciation", is what is generally taught in France; thus, other accents such as Irish, Scottish, Southern US or Australian accents may be understood with difficulty, if at all. Try to speak clearly and slowly, and avoid slang or US-specific words or phrases. There is no need to speak loudly unless in a loud environment to be understood; doing so is considered impolite. Don't forget that French people will really appreciate any attempts you do to speak French.
French français is the official language of France, although there are regional variations in pronunciation and local words. For example, throughout France the word for yes, oui, said "we", but you will often hear the slang form "ouais", said "waay." It's similar to the English language usage of "Yeah" instead of "Yes".
In Alsace and part of Lorraine, a dialect of German called "Alsatian", which is almost incomprehensible to speakers of standard High German, is spoken. In the south, some still speak dialects of the Langue d'Oc because the word for "yes" is oc: Languedocien, Limousin, Auvergnat, or Provençal. Langue d'Oc is a Romance language, a very close relative of Italian, Spanish, or Catalan. In the west part of Brittany, a few people, mainly old or scholars, speak Breton; this Celtic language is closer to Welsh than to French. In parts of Aquitaine, Basque is spoken, but not as much as on the Spanish side of the border. In Corsica a kind of Italian is spoken. In Provence, Provençal is most likely to be spoken, especially along the Riviera.
However, almost everyone speaks French and tourists are unlikely to ever come across regional languages, except in order to give a "folkloric" flair to things.
Hardly anybody understands imperial units such as gallons or Fahrenheit. Stick to metric units after all, French invented this system!.
The French are generally attached to politeness some might say excessively and will react coolly to strangers that forget it. You might be surprised to see that you are greeted by other customers when you walk into a restaurant or shop. Return the courtesy and address your hellos/goodbyes to everyone when you enter or leave small shops and cafes. It is, for the French, very impolite to start a conversation with a stranger even a shopkeeper or client without at least a polite word like "bonjour". For this reason, starting the conversation with at least a few basic French phrases, or some equivalent polite form in English, goes a long way to convince them to try and help you.
"Excusez-moi Monsieur/Madame": Excuse me ex-COO-zay-mwah mih-SYOOR/muh-DAM
"S'il vous plaît Monsieur/Madame" : Please SEEL-voo-PLAY
"Merci Monsieur/Madame" : Thank you mare-SEE
"Au revoir Monsieur/Madame" : Good Bye Ore-vwar
Avoid "Salut" Hi; it is reserved for friends and relatives, and to use it with people you are not acquainted with is considered quite impolite.
Some travel phrases:
Où est l'hôtel? - Where is the hotel?
Où sont les toilettes? - Where can I find a restroom?
Où est la gare? Where is the train station
Parlez-vous français? Do you speak French?
Parlez-vous anglais? Do you speak English?
Note that French spoken with an hard English accent or an American accent can be very difficult for the average French person to understand. In such circumstances, it may be best to write down what you are trying to say. But tales of waiters refusing to serve tourists because their pronunciation doesn't meet French standards are highly exaggerated. A good-faith effort will usually be appreciated, but don't be offended if a waiter responds to your fractured French, or even fluent but accented, in English If you are a fluent French speaker and the waiter speaks to you in English when you'd prefer to speak French, continue to respond in French and the waiter will usually switch back - this is a common occurrence in the more tourist-orientated areas, especially in Paris.
Please note that some parts of France such as Paris are at times overrun by tourists. The locals there may have some blasé feelings about helping for the umpteenth time foreign tourists who speak in an unintelligible language and ask for directions to the other side of the city. Be courteous and understanding.
As France is a very multicultural society, many African languages, Arabic, Chinese dialects, Vietnamese or Cambodian could be spoken. Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and even Romanian are comprehensible to a French speaker to a reasonably wide extent, as they are all mutually intelligible through most words and come from the same family tree, but you should stick to French unless you're in a large city.
The standard sign language in France is French Sign Language, locally abbreviated LSF. Whenever an interpreter for the hearing-impaired is present at a public event, LSF will be used. Whether a user of a foreign sign language will be able to communicate in France depends on the user's specific language. For example, users of American Sign Language also used in Anglophone Canada, Irish Sign Language, and Quebec Sign Language may be able to communicate to some degree. These languages are derived from LSF to a significant extent, and share a good deal of vocabulary and syntax. Languages in the LSF family also have one-handed manual alphabets that differ slightly from language to language. On the other hand, users of British Sign Language, New Zealand Sign Language, and Auslan will have great difficulty. These languages differ significantly in vocabulary and syntax from LSF, and also use the same two-handed manual alphabet.
Finally, foreign TV programmes shown on local or national TV networks are dubbed into French. Similarly, the audio of news interviews where the interviewee gives a response in another language is superimposed with a French translation. For foreign films shown in a cinema however, audiences, particularly in larger cities, usually have an option to watch the film in its original language with French subtitles or whose audio is dubbed into French.
on the métro
The Métro subway system is a great way to get around Paris or Lyon, Marseille, et al., which is readily apparent in the throngs of people that use it to go to work, school, and the like. If you do not ride the train at home, or if you come from a place that doesn't have a subway system, there are certain points of etiquette that you may not be aware of. When boarding at the station, let those exiting the train step off onto the platform before boarding, and once aboard move to the centre of the car. If you have luggage, move it as far out of the path of others as possible on the RER B to Charles de Gaulle airport, use the luggage racks above the seats instead. Certain stations have moving sidewalks to cover the distances between platforms - walk on the left and stand on the right! Finally, do note that the doors on French subway cars don't generally open automatically once the train has stopped at the station; rather, most cars have a small button or lever on the doors that opens them. If you should happen to be standing near the door in a crowded car you might hear someone behind you say "la porte, s'il vous plait," which means that person would like to get off the train and is asking you to open the door for him/her. Pop the door open and step aside or down onto the platform while that person exits the train - the driver will wait for you to get back on.
Dress codes are fast disappearing, but if you want to avoid looking like a tourist, then avoid white sneakers, baseball caps, tracksuit pants, shorts and flip-flops except at the beach. Generally speaking, business casual dress code is sufficient in cities and in all but the most formal occasions.
When it comes to women's urban wear, very short skirts, largely open cleavage, or ostensibly sexy clothing in general, is considered poor taste in France, especially in the colder climates of northern France including Paris. Women dressing this way taking public transportation or walking in the street to a club, may be heckled on the way, or get looks of disapproval.
Usual courtesy applies when entering churches, and although you may not be asked to leave, it is better to avoid short pants and halter tops.
Some restaurants will frown if you come in dressed for trekking but very few will insist upon a jacket and tie. You may be surprised by the number of French twenty-somethings who show up at a grungy bar in jacket and tie, even if obviously from a thrift-shop.
Beaches and swimming pools in hotels are used for getting a tan. Taking off your bra will not usually create a stir if you don't mind a bevy of oglers. Taking off the bottom part is reserved to designated nude beaches. People on beaches are usually not offended by a young boy or girl undressed. Most resort cities insist on your wearing a shirt when leaving the beach area. Many pools will not allow baggy or "board" swim trunks, insisting on snug fitting speedo type trunks.
Breastfeeding in public is very rare but nobody will mind if you do.
talking to people
The French language has two different forms of the pronoun "you" that are used when addressing someone in the second person. "Tu" is the second-person singular and "Vous" is nominally the second-person plural. However, in some situations, French speakers will use "Vous" for the second-person singular. While one will use "Vous" to address a group of people no matter what the circumstances, non-native speakers will invariably have some difficulty when trying to determine whether to address a person with the informal and friendly "tu" or the formal and respectful "vous." The language even has two special verbs reflecting this difference: "tutoyer" to address a person using "tu", and "vouvoyer" to address a person using "vous", each of them carrying their own connotations and implications. Unfortunately, the rules as to when to use which form can sometimes seem maddeningly opaque to the non-native French speaker.
Generally speaking, one will only use the "tu" form to address someone in an informal situation where there is familiarity or intimacy between the two parties. For example, "tu" is used when addressing a close friend or spouse, or when an adult child is addressing a parent. "Tu" is also used in situations where the other party is very young, such as a parent speaking to a child or a schoolteacher to a student. In contrast, "vous" is used in situations where the parties are not familiar, or where it is appropriate to convey respect and/or deference. For example, an office worker might use "tu" to address co-workers that he works closely with, but he would probably use "vous" when speaking to the receptionist he rarely talks to. He certainly wouldn't use "tu" when speaking with his boss. In that same vein, police officers and other authorities should always be addressed with "vous."
If that's confusing or not confusing enough the key thing to remember is that it's all about distance. For example, a bartender is vous up until the moment that he or she gives you a complementary drink, at which point tu becomes more appropriate, and the use of vous would be a bit ungrateful and off-putting.
For foreigners, the best way to deal with the "tu" and "vous" problem is to address people using "vous" until invited to say "tu", or until addressed by the first name. Doing so will look perhaps a shade old fashioned, but always respectful. In most cases, if French is not your native language most French people will overlook any such overly formal and polite language without thinking much about it anyway. Doing the opposite can be pretty rude and embarrassing in some situations, so it's probably best to err on the side of caution.
Simplified: Use vous unless:
the person is genuinely your friend;
the person is under 16; or
you've been explicitly told to use "tu"
Post offices are found in all cities and villages but their time of operation vary. In the main cities the downtown office may be open during lunchtime, typically 09:00-18:00. Most offices are only open on Saturday morning and there is only one office in Paris which is open 24/7 in rue du Louvre.
Letter boxes are yellow.
Toilets are available in restaurants, cafés; there are also public facilities, which generally charge a fee. Note that American euphemisms such as "restroom", "washroom" etc. will often not be understood; ask for "toilets". In older public facilities, particularly those that do not charge or isolated rest areas, you may encounter squat toilets.
It is considered very rude to be loud in a crowded place, such as a subway car or restaurant. Keep in mind that, though you may be enjoying your holiday, most people around you in the métro or other places are probably going to or back from work and may be tired and thus will react very coldly to tourists babbling at the top of their lungs. If you listen to the locals talk, you will notice that they talk rather softly.
International delivery services like FedEx, UPS, are available in cities, however you generally have to call them for them to come to you as they have very few physical locations.
Another option is to simply use La Poste with a wide network around the country and the same services as its competitors.
As a general rule, debates, discussions, and friendly arguments are something that the French enjoy, but there are certain topics that should be treated more delicately or indirectly than others:
Politics: French people have a wide variety of opinions about many subjects. Unless you really follow French news closely, you should probably steer clear of discussing internal French politics, especially sensitive issues such as immigration - you may come across as judgmental and uninformed. Reading French newspapers to get a feel for the wide spectrum of political opinions in France – from the revolutionary left to the nationalistic right – may help. That said, don't be discouraged from engaging in political discussions with French people, just be aware of the position that being a foreigner puts you in. Also, it is considered to be quite rude to ask a person point-blank about which candidate he/she voted for in the last election or will vote for in the next; instead, talk about the issues and take it from there.
Religion: The French seldom advertise their religious feelings, however, and expect you to avoid doing so as well. Doing so might make people feel uneasy. It is also generally considered impolite to inquire about religious or other personal issues. While France has barred religious symbols from public places including Sikh turban, Islamic hijab and Jewish kippah on grounds of secularism, this controversial topic is best avoided in polite conversations. People practicing those faiths need to be aware of the unfriendly attitudes that some in France hold to expression of religion in public places.
Money: You should also avoid presenting yourself through what you own house, car, etc.. It is also considered to be quite crass to discuss your salary, or to ask someone else directly about theirs. Instead express your enthusiasm about how great are the responsibilities, or how lucky you were to get there, etc.
City/Rural Differences: While it is true that roughly 1/6th of the country's population lives in the Paris region, don't make the mistake of reducing France to Paris or assuming that all French people act like Parisians. Life in Paris can be closer to life in London or New York City than in the rest of France; just as New Yorkers or Londoners might act and feel differently than people from, say, Oklahoma or Herefordshire, so might Parisian customs and opinions differ from those found "en province."
In many shops/stores in France, you should ask the shopkeeper to take items from the shelf; as opposed to picking it up yourself. This applies in liquor or wine stores, clothing stores, etc. Failure to respect this policy might result in confused and/or angered reactions from the shopkeeper.
Hospitals will have an emergency room signposted Urgences.
The following numbers are toll-free:
17Law enforcement emergencies for e.g. reporting a crime
112European standard emergency numbers.
Operators at these numbers can transfer requests to other services if needed e.g. some medical emergencies may be answered by firefighter groups.
Carrying or using narcotic substances, from marijuana to hard drugs, is illegal whatever the quantity. The penalty can be severe especially if you are suspected of dealing. Trains and cars coming from countries which have a more lenient attitude like the Netherlands are especially targeted. Police have often been known to stop entire coaches and search every passenger and their bags thouroughly just because they're coming from Amsterdam.
France has a liberal policy with respect to alcohol; there are usually no ID checks for purchasing alcohol unless you look much younger than 18. However, causing problems due to public drunkenness is a misdemeanor and may result in a night in a police station. Drunk driving is a severe offense and may result in heavy fines and jail sentences.
A little etiquette note: while it is common to drink beer straight from the bottle at informal meetings, doing the same with wine is normally only done by tramps clochards.
Smoking is prohibited by law in all enclosed spaces accessible to the public this includes train and subway cars, train and subway station enclosures, workplaces, restaurants and cafés unless in areas specifically designated for smoking, and there are few of these. There was an exception for restaurants and cafés, but since the 1st January 2008, the smoking ban law is also enforced there. You may face a fine of €68 if you are found smoking in these places.
Smoking is banned in métro and trains, as well as enclosed stations. Subway and train conductors do enforce the law and will fine you for smoking in non-designated places; if you encounter problems with a smoker in train, you may go find the conductor.
As hotels are not considered as public places, some offer smoking vs non-smoking rooms.
Only people over the age 18 may purchase tobacco products. Shopkeepers may request a photo ID.
Crime-related emergencies can be reported to the toll-free number 17. Law enforcement forces are the National Police Police Nationale in urban area and the Gendarmerie in rural area, though for limited issues such as parking and traffic offenses some towns and villages also have a municipal police.
France is a very low-crime area, and is one of the safest countries in the world, but large cities are plagued with the usual woes. Violent crime against tourists or strangers is very rare, but there is pickpocketing and purse-snatching.
The inner city areas and a few select suburbs are usually safe at all hours. In large cities, especially Paris, there are a few areas which are better to avoid. Parts of the suburban are sometimes grounds for youth gang violent activities and drug dealing; however these are almost always far from touristic points and you should have no reason to visit them. Common sense applies: it is very easy to spot derelict areas.
The subject of crime in the poorer suburbs is very touchy as it may easily have racist overtones, since many people associate it with working-class youth of North African origin. You should probably not express any opinion on the issue.
Usual caution apply for tourists flocking around sights as they may become targets for pickpockets. A usual trick is to ask tourists to sign fake petitions and give some money, which is a way to put pressure on the victim. Stay away from people requesting money without any organization badge.
While it is not compulsory for French citizens to carry identification, they usually do so. Foreigners should carry some kind of official identity document. Although random checks are not the norm you may be asked for an ID in some kinds of situations, for example if you cannot show a valid ticket when using public transportation; not having one in such cases will result in you being taken to a police station for further checks. Even if you feel that law enforcement officers have no right to check your identity they can do so only in certain circumstances, it is a bad idea to enter a legal discussion with them; it is better to put up with it and show ID. Again, the subject is touchy as the police have often been accused of targeting people according to criteria of ethnicity e.g. délit de sale gueule = literally "crime of a dirty face" but perhaps equivalent to the American "driving while black."
Due to the terrorist factor, police, with the help of military units, are patrolling monuments, the Paris subway, train stations and airports. Depending on the status of the "Vigipirate" plan anti terrorist units it is not uncommon to see armed patrols in those areas. The presence of police is of help for tourists, as it also deters pickpockets and the like. However, suspicious behaviour, public disturbances etc., may result in policemen asking to see an ID.
In France, failing to offer assistance to 'a person in danger' is illegal. This means that if you fail to stop upon witnessing a motor accident, fail to report such an accident to emergency services, or ignore appeals for help or urgent assistance, you may be charged. Penalties include suspended prison sentence and fines. The law does not apply in situations where to answer an appeal for help might endanger your life or the lives of others.
LGBT support varies depending on the location and you should tread lightly in areas with larger Muslim populations such as Besancon and Paris. LGBT have been attacked for their orientation and discrimination still exists. Rural areas are especially areas you should be careful in. But if you see many people who are also LGBT it's most likely safe. If not, keep it private or you could be in danger.
The health care in France is of a very high standard.
Pharmacies in France are denoted by a green cross, usually in neon. They sell medicines, contraceptives, and often beauty and related products though these can be very expensive. Medicines must be ordered from the counter, even non-prescription medicines. The pharmacist is able to help you about various medicines and propose you generic drugs.
Since drug brand names vary across countries even though the effective ingredients stay the same, it is better to carry prescriptions using the international nomenclature in addition to the commercial brand name. Prescription drugs, including oral contraceptives aka "the pill", will only be delivered if a doctor's prescription is shown.
In addition, supermarkets sell condoms préservatifs and also often personal lubricant, bandages, disinfectant and other minor medical item. Condom machines are often found in bar toilets, etc.
Medical treatment can be obtained from self-employed physicians, clinics and hospitals. Most general practitioners, specialists e.g. gynecologists, and dentists are self-employed; look for signs saying Docteur médecine générale is general practitioner. The normal price for a consultation with a general practitioner is €23, though some physicians charge more this is the full price and not a co-payment. Physicians may also do home calls, but these are more expensive.
Residents of the European Union are covered by the French social security system, which will reimburse or directly pay for 70% of health expenses 30% co-payment in general, though many physicians and surgeons apply surcharges. Other travellers are not covered and will be billed the full price, even if at a public hospital; non-EU travellers should have travel insurance covering medical costs.
Tap water Eau du robinet is drinkable, except in rare cases such as rural rest areas and sinks in train bathrooms, in which case it will be clearly signposted as Eau non potable. Eau potable is potable water. You may, however, not like the taste which may be chlorinated, bottled water is common.