Small Talk

Learning a language is incredibly rewarding. At Babylangues we know that learning French may seem challenging, but being able to speak another language opens so many doors in life! However, for most, one of the hardest things is simply getting the conversation started. Keeping with the theme for this month’s newsletter, have a read of our toolkit to become an expert on French small talk!

Different countries have different rules when deciding on what is acceptable to say and what is a taboo in small talk. In France, if you don’t know the person very well it is vital that you avoid conversations with too many personal questions.

For example, asking about someone’s marital status, family life, job or salary can offend French people, especially when talking to a person they hardly know. Therefore, we’d advise leaning towards “harmless” topics such as the weather, sport, and current affairs. Or even other cultural subjects like food, music and art!

Some people consider the French to be rather impolite, but when it comes to small talk and general manners, it’s definitely not the case. Being in a taxi in France is unlike other countries. Instead of riding along in total silence, it is almost an expectation to politely chat to your driver for the duration of the journey. Also, there is an “unwritten rule” when entering a place, whereby you must always greet people with “Bonjour” (formal) or “Salut” (informal) and leave by saying “Au revoir” (formal) or “Salut/Ciao” (informal). This applies not only for taxis but in local supermarkets, restaurants, hairdressers and even at work!

Another key point when making small talk in French is to pay close attention when saying “you”. The distinction between saying “tu” and “vous” indicates the status of your relationship. If the wrong form is used, it may come across as disrespectful. It is essential to always speak to someone you don’t know with “vous” and after you get to know them on a friendly basis, you can change to “tu”!

Click HERE for more handy language toolkits to help you with life in France.