Body language
 How can you tell an American from a Frenchman?    The French and their body language: some examples
  • Make him count 1,2,3,4,... : the American will start with the little finger and end with the thumb, the Frenchman just the opposite.

  • Make him walk : the American will move his arms and take a lot of space, the Frenchman will be much stiffer

  • Make him hug : the American will look as if he was afraid of bad breath, stay as far as possible and give big hits on the back of the other person ; the Frenchman , like the Spanish with his abrazo, will actually TOUCH the body of the other person, the lips will touch the cheek and he/she will act as if he/she was enjoying it

  • Put him in an elevator : the American will talk (the French will try to avoid any eye contact)

  • Make him (and particularly, make her) laugh and hear and see the difference in the level of noise and in muscular activity...

  • Make him say "everything is OK" : he will form a circle joining thumb and index (in French, this gesture means : "zero")

  • Enjoy a meal with him : he will put his bread on his plate (the French put it on the table) and his hands on his thighs (the French put them on the table)

  • For more about body language, visit a comprehensive website. and an intercultural website

  • More to come
  • Why do the French seem rude even when they're not ? Far be it from me to defend the French who seem to be quite good both at ticking off the Entire World and at defending themselves. I do however submit two possible reasons the French appear rude even when they are not : body language and intonation. French body language is very expressive. There's some physical gesture for almost any emotion and when the emotion is exasperation or anger, it shows even when there are no words. French intonation, to a non-French speaking person, makes the French sound angry even when two Frenchmen are only discussing the World Cup or the latest Social Security reform or the taste of Paris tap water. This simple fact explains most American anecdotes about the French being rude with them. Solution : 1. Learn French Body Language 2. Learn French !

  • More to come...

DID YOU KNOW THAT ....? The French touch each other a lot ! According to a study quoted by Le Figaro Madame (May 3, 2003) a study on heterosexual couples seated at a terrace established the number of contacts at 110 per half-hour as compared to 2 for Americans ! Look how former President Sarkozy behaved, always touching the shoulder, the neck, the arm of the people he was talking to... His successor, Emmanuel Macron does it less but still much more than his international counterparts..

 Are you crazy ? credits  Laurence Wylie was professor of French Civilization at Harvard and the author of the classical "Village in the Vaucluse". He studied French body language and this is an example of it. Here are a few quotes from an interview he gave to a magazine (L'Express 1/8/1977) :
  • The French are more controlled (than Americans) : their chest remains straight, their pelvis horizontal, their shoulders do not move and their arms are close to their body ... there is something stiff and tense in the French way of moving (read an explanation about it by a French psychoanalyst) ; This is why French clothes are too narrow, too tight for Americans
  • being very controlled with their bodies, the French need verbal expression as an outlet (maybe this is why they are often considered rude)
  • Americans need more space to move
  • Your obsession with rationality leads you to give a major importance to your head : the most characteristic French gestures are associated with the head : mouth, eyes, nose, etc... (for instance, the French say "My eye" and point their finger to their eye, when Americans say "My foot")
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Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books :

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

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