A Guide to Gift-Giving and Etiquette in France

A Guide to Gift-Giving and Etiquette in France

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If you’re interested in learning more about the French customs surrounding gift-giving, keep reading! Gift-giving in France works a little bit differently.

There’s nothing that brings quite as much joy as giving someone you love the perfect gift. Just seeing them happy makes a smile spread across your face!

Personal Gift-Giving

Giving personal gifts in France works a little bit differently than what you may be used to. Knowing how to handle gifts properly can help you understand how to honour French friends and hosts. 

In France, most people will not invite you into their home as readily as they would in the United States. Because of that, you should think of it as a rare honour to be welcomed into their home. 

When you are invited to a French home for a meal or a party, it’s expected that you’ll bring a gift. You’ll want to give your gift to the host before the party or event begins. 

Appropriate Gifts

The most commonly gifted items to a host are flowers, chocolates, or liqueur in French culture. Whichever you choose, make sure that it is a high-quality item. Giving something cheap is considered an insult. 

If you choose to give flowers, the type of flowers you choose will say a lot. Chrysanthemums are given at funerals, while red roses are given to romantic interests. Carnations often symbolize bad luck.

In addition to the type of flowers you choose to give, you’ll want to think about the number. An old European tradition says that flowers should be gifted in odd numbers. In other words, skip a dozen roses and go for a baker’s dozen to make a better impression. 

Another gift you may choose to give is alcohol. While wine is commonly given as a gift to the host in the US, this isn’t always a good idea or proper etiquette in France. In France, the host will typically make the wine selection. There are exceptions, of course. Sometimes the host may ask guests to bring a bottle of wine. This is not uncommon amongst close friends. 

If you want to give alcohol, a safe choice is a bottle of something meant to drink after the meal, an after-dinner digestif: dessert wine or liqueur, port etc.

Giving Cards

Part of gift-giving involves giving cards. There are many situations where it may be appropriate to send a card to a friend or colleague. Once again, in France, the rules surrounding cards are a little bit different. 

For one, make sure that you send a note after being invited to a dinner party or other event at the home of a Frenchman. These should be sent the next day and should always be handwritten. You can send the note by messenger or accompany it with fruit or flowers to add a special touch. 

Another occasion where you may want to send cards is during the holidays. Holiday cards are a great way to show appreciation for business colleagues in particular. 

The most common type of holiday card in France, whether you’re sending it to a friend or to a business associate, is a New Year’s card. You’re free to send New Year’s greetings throughout the entire month of January. However, as soon as February begins, sending New Year’s cards becomes inappropriate. 

Corporate Gift-Giving

It’s not just friends and families that we give gifts to. Sometimes, we want to give gifts to those we work with. That could be to thank them for taking the time to meet with you or simply to share your culture with your new business associate. 

Either way, when it comes to corporate gift-giving in France, this is not something that’s expected. Most people in France skip the gifts and simply hold an event or dinner for their business contact. If you truly feel that you need to give a gift, however, you should follow a few rules. 

Skip the Company Swag

In the United States, it’s fairly commonplace for us to dish out swag at the end of a business meeting. In France, however, this is considered vulgar. Skip the company logo gifts and instead opt for something personal. 

Don’t Include a Business Card.

Another American tradition is to throw in your business card with the gift you’re giving. It’s a way of showing who the gift is from and reminding them of your interaction. In France, this goes against proper business etiquette, so make sure to leave your business card out. 

Give Gifts in Person

While sending a gift to someone’s home in the United States may be considered okay, this is not okay in France. In fact, it could come across as creepy. Always make sure to give gifts in person to avoid an awkward situation. 

You might be interested in reading: The Perfect Last Minute Gift Box To Give To Travel Lovers

Send Cards

Rather than sending an elaborate gift to your French colleagues, why not send them a card? New Year’s is one of the most important French holidays and is the perfect time to send your colleagues a card wishing them well. 

Master the Art of French Gift-Giving

At the end of the day, gift-giving in France is fairly straightforward, and most people will appreciate the thought. Knowing how to properly handle gift-giving can help you and your French friend feel more comfortable in the interaction. 

If you want more insights into French living, check out my other articles here at Annie André! You’ll be sure to find tips on French living that make you feel at ease on your next trip to this beautiful country. 

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