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 Study in France
a ABOUT france
a STUDYING In france
a GETTING TO france
a LIVING IN france

STUDY IN France - Living In France


Social Scene    |   Customs and Culture   |   Transportation

Accommodation   |   Health Care   |   Emergency Contacts


Social Scene

Social Conventions

Handshaking and, more familiarly, kissing both cheeks, are the usual form of greeting. The form of personal address is simply Monsieur or Madame without a surname and it may take time to get on first-name terms.

At more formal dinners, it is the most important guest or host who gives the signal to start eating. Meal times are often a long, leisurely experience.

Casual wear is common but the French are renowned for their stylish sportswear and dress sense. Social functions, some clubs, casinos and exclusive restaurants warrant more formal attire. Evening wear is normally specified where required. Topless sunbathing is tolerated on most beaches but naturism is restricted to certain beaches – local tourist offices will advise where these are.

Smoking is prohibited on public transport and in cinemas and theatres. Tobacconists display a red sign in the form of a double cone. A limited choice of brands can be found in restaurants and bars.


A 12-15 per cent service charge is normally added to the bill in hotels, restaurants and bars, but it is customary to leave small change with the payment; more if the service has been exceptional. Other services such as washroom attendants, 10 to 15 per cent of the meter fare.

Local Customs & Culture

Food & Drink

With the exception of China, France has a more varied and developed cuisine than any other country. The simple, delicious cooking for which France is famous is found in the old-fashioned bistro and restaurant. There are two distinct styles of eating in France. One is of course ‘gastronomy’ (haute cuisine), widely known and honoured as a cult with rituals, rules and taboos. It is rarely practised in daily life, partly because of the cost and the time which must be devoted to it. The other is family-style cooking, often just as delicious as its celebrated counterpart. Almost all restaurants offer two types of meal: à la carte (extensive choice for each course and more expensive) and le menu (a set meal at a fixed price with dishes selected from the full à la carte menu). At simple restaurants, the same cutlery will be used for all courses. The bill (l’addition) will not be presented until it is asked for, even if clients sit and talk for half an hour after they have finished eating. Many restaurants close for a month during the summer, and one day a week. It is always wise to check that a restaurant is open, particularly on Sunday.

For more information on the specialities from the various regions of France, consult the regional sections. The tourist office publishes a guide to restaurants in Paris and the Ile-de-France.

The legal age for drinking alcohol in a bar/cafe is 18. Minors are allowed to go into bars if accompanied by an adult but they will not be served alcohol. Hours of opening depend on the proprietor but generally bars in major towns and resorts are open throughout the day; some may still be open at 0200. Smaller towns tend to shut earlier. There are also all-night bars and cafes.


In major cities such as Paris, Lyon or Marseille, there are lively nightclubs that sometimes charge no entry fee, although drinks are likely to be more expensive. Alternatively, the entrance price sometimes includes a consommation of one drink. As an alternative to a nightclub, there are many late-night bars and cafes. Tourist offices publish an annual and monthly diary of events available free of charge. Several guides are also available which give information about entertainments and sightseeing in the capital. In the provinces, the French generally spend the night eating and drinking, although in the more popular tourist areas there will be discos and dances. All weekend festivals in summer in the rural areas are a good form of evening entertainment. There are over 130 public casinos in the country.


Special purchases include lace, crystal glass, cheeses, coffee and, of course, wines, spirits and liqueurs. Arques, the home of Crystal D’Arques, is situated between St Omer and Calais, en route to most southern destinations. Lille, the main town of French Flanders, is known for its textiles, particularly fine lace. Most towns have fruit and vegetable markets on Saturday. Hypermarkets, enormous supermarkets which sell everything from foodstuffs and clothes to hi-fi equipment and furniture, are widespread in France. They tend to be situated just outside of town and all have parking facilities. Shopping hours: Department stores are open Mon-Sat 0900-1830. Some shops are closed between 1200-1430. Food shops are open 0700-1830/1930. Some food shops (particularly bakers) are open Sunday mornings, in which case they will probably close Monday. Many shops close all day or Monday afternoon. Hypermarkets are normally open until 2100 or 2200.



French Railways (SNCF) operate a nationwide network with 34,200km (21,250 miles) of line, over 12,000km (7500 miles) of which has been electrified. The TGV (Train à grande vitesse) runs from Paris to Brittany and southwest France at 300kph (186mph) and to Lyon and the southeast at 270kph (168mph).

The SNCF is divided into five systems (East, North, West, Southeast and Southwest). The transport in and around Paris is the responsibility of a separate body, the RATP at 54 quai de la Rapée, 75599 Paris (tel: (1) 4468 2020; website: This organisation provides a fully integrated bus, rail and métro network for the capital.

Rail tickets

There are various kinds of tickets (including Family and Young Person’s Tickets) offering reductions which can usually be bought in France. In general, the fares charged will depend on what day of the week and what time of the day one is travelling; timetables giving further details are available from SNCF offices. It is essential to validate (composter) tickets bought in France by using the orange automatic date-stamping machine at the platform entrance.

There is a range of special tickets on offer to foreign visitors; they usually have to be bought before entering France and some are only available in North America; others are unique to Australia and New Zealand. There are also special European Rail and Drive packages. For more information, contact your local French Government Tourist Office (see Contact Addresses section).

Motorail (car sleeper): Services are operated from Boulogne, Calais, Dieppe and Paris to all main holiday areas in both summer and winter. Motorail information and booking is available from Rail Europe (tel: (08705) 848 848; website:; see Travel – International section.


Traffic drives on the right. France has over 9000km (5600 miles) of motorways (autoroutes), some of which are free whilst others are toll roads (autoroutes à péage). Prices vary depending on the route, and caravans are extra. There are more than 28,500km (17,700 miles) of national roads (routes nationales). Motorways bear the prefix ‘A’ and national roads ‘N’. Minor roads (marked in yellow on the Michelin road maps) are maintained by the départements rather than by the Government and are classed as ‘D’ roads. It is a good idea to avoid travelling any distance by road on the last few days of July/first few days of August and the last few days of August/first few days of September, as during this time the bulk of the holiday travel takes place and the roads can be jammed for miles. A sign bearing the words Sans Plomb on a petrol pump shows that it dispenses unleaded petrol. The Bison Futé map provides practical information and is available from the French Government Tourist Office.


Information on services may be obtained from local tourist offices. Local services outside the towns and cities are generally adequate.

Car hire

A list of agencies can be obtained at local tourist offices (Syndicats d’Initiative or Offices de Tourisme). Fly-drive arrangements are available through all major airlines. French Railways (SNCF) also offer reduced train/car-hire rates.


These may be imported for stays of up to 6 months. There are special requirements for cars towing caravans which must be observed; eg cars towing caravans are prohibited to drive within the boundaries of the péripherérique (the Paris ring road). Contact the French Government Tourist Office for details.



Room and all meals, ie full-board or pension terms, are usually offered for a stay of 3 days or longer. Half-board or demi-pension (room, breakfast and one meal) terms are usually available outside the peak holiday period. They are not expensive but adhere to strict standards of comfort. Hotels charge around 30 per cent extra for a third bed in a double room. For children under 12, many chains will provide another bed in the room of the parents for free. Logis de France are small- or medium-sized, inexpensive and often family-run hotels which provide good, clean, basic and comfortable accommodation with a restaurant attached.

Further information can be obtained from the Fédération Nationale des Logis de France, 83 avenue d’Italie, 75013 Paris (tel: (1) 4584 8384; fax: (1) 4583 5966; e-mail:; website:

Relais-Châteaux are châteaux hotels. More details on all types of hotel accomodation can be obtained from the Union des Métiers et des Industries de l'Hôtellerie, 22 rue d’Anjou, 75008 Paris (tel: (1) 4494 1994; fax: (1) 4742 1520; website: Hotels in Paris:

Hotel bookings can be made in person through tourist offices at stations or at the Paris Tourist Office, 127 avenue des Champs-Elysées, 75008 Paris (tel: (8) 9268 3112; fax: (1) 4952 5300; e-mail:; website: or free of charge at


Regional lists or hotels are available, as well as the Logis de France guide and various chain/association guides from the French Government Tourist Office and bookshops. The Tourist Office publishes guides to hotels in Paris and the Ile-de-France, available free of charge.


Hôtels de Tourisme are officially graded into five categories according to the quality of the accommodation, which are fixed by government regulation and checked by the Préfecture of the Départements: 4-star: Deluxe. 3-star: First class. 2-star: Standard. 1-star: Budget. Logis de France are subject to a specific code usually above basic requirements for their grade and are inspected regularly to ensure that they conform to the standards laid down.


Gîtes de France are holiday homes (often old farmhouses) in the country, all of which conform to standards regulated by the non-profitmaking National Federation. Contact the Fédération Nationale des Gîtes de France, 59 rue de St Lazare, 75439 Paris (tel: (1) 4970 7575; fax: (1) 4281 2853; website:; e-mail: ).

Villas, Houses and Apartments Rental: Villas and houses can be rented on the spot. Local Syndicats d’Initiative can supply a complete list of addresses of local rental agencies. Tourists staying in France for over a month may prefer to live in an apartment, rather than in a hotel.

For information about apartments to rent, apply to: Fédération Nationale de l’Immobilier, 129 rue du Faubourg St-Honoré, 75439 Paris (tel: (1) 4420 7700; fax: (1) 4225 8084; website:


An association, Château-Accueil (25 rue Jean Giraudoux, 75116 Paris; tel: (1) 5367 7400; fax: (1) 4723 3756; e-mail:; website:, publishes a list of châteaux offering accommodation suitable for families. Contact the French Government Tourist Office for further information.


There are 7000 campsites throughout France. A few have tents and caravans for hire. Prices vary according to location, season and facilities. All graded campsites will provide water, toilet and washing facilities. Touring caravans may be imported for stays of up to 6 consecutive months.

Contact the Fédération Française de Camping at Caravaning, 78 rue de Rivoli, 75004 Paris (tel: (1) 4272 8408; fax: (1) 4272 7021; e-mail:; website: for more information. There are 100 British companies offering camping holidays in France. The French Government Tourist Office has a full list of tour operators who run all types of tours, including camping and special interest holidays.


There are hundreds of these in France, offering very simple accommodation at very low prices. There are hostels in all major towns. Stays are usually limited to three or four nights or a week in Paris. Hostels are open to all members of the National Youth Hostel Association upon presentation of a membership card. Lists are available from national youth hostel organisations.

For further information, contact the French Youth Hostels Federation (FUAJ) (FUAJ Centre National, 27 rue Pajal, 75018 Paris; tel: (1) 4489 8727; fax: (1) 4489 8749; e-mail:; website: or the French Government Tourist Office.

Health Care

There is a reciprocal health agreement with the UK. On presentation of Form E111 (which must not be more than 12 months old to avoid the possibility of bureaucratic non-acceptance) at an office of the Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (Sickness Insurance Office), UK citizens are entitled to a refund of 75 per cent or more of charges incurred for dental and medical (including hospital) treatments and around 35-65 per cent of charges incurred for prescribed medicines. Application forms for Form E111 are obtainable from post offices. The standard of medical facilities and practitioners in France is very high but so are the fees, and health insurance is recommended – even for UK citizens.

Emergency Contacts

Universal European Emergency Services #

Works from all phones including mobiles



This number connects to the fire brigade (Sapeurs Pompiers) but they also deal with medical emergencies

Should be the first port of call in life-threatening situations


(for other urgent medical call-outs)

Police / Gendarmes
18 15 17
Emergency calls (hearing assisted) Emergency Shelter Sea and lake rescue Reporting
child abuse
Terror / kidnapping hotline Anti-poison centre
114 115 196 119 197 01 40 05 48 48:
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