Did you know the following facts about laws and etiquette in France?

franceWhen travelling to a country for the first time, you may be unaware of the differences in culture and rules. Don’t get caught out, make sure to do your research, before you travel!

France is a prime example of a country that, despite being such a close neighbour to the UK, has many differences that you may not know about. We’ve compiled a list of some facts, in order to help you out…


If you decide to drive over to France, be aware that you will need to have a GB sticker either on your car or have a license plate with the GB initials. Without one, you could receive an instant fine.

According to the RAC website, French law also requires you to have the following in your car at all times:

  • A warning triangle. This is compulsory for any vehicle with four wheels or more
  • Snow chains. Especially at this time of year, these will be important in some areas. There will be signs up to inform you if they are needed, so, to be on the safe side, keep them in your car during winter.
  • Headlamp beam deflectors will be required. You will either have to adjust them manually or use deflector stickers.
  • Spare bulbs are also a legal requirement. You must have a spare bulb kit to hand, in order to change them as and when needed.
  • You also need to ensure that there are reflective jackets for each passenger, kept inside the car and in an easy to reach place.
  • Breathalysers/alcohol test. The introduction of a fine for those not carrying one has apparently been postponed indefinitely. However, French law still states that drivers of motor vehicles must have an alcotest to hand, despite the fact that no penalty can be given if they don’t.

It is worth noting that you are also not allowed to use your own breakdown company, if you have any issues during your journey. French motorways are privately managed, so you must use one of the orange emergency telephones (located every 2km along main roads and motorways) to either call the police or that area’s official breakdown service.

Currently, driving licences issues in EU and EEA countries are acceptable in France. This has left us wondering, however, what will happen post Brexit…

Also, remember that, although your UK driving licence allows you to drive in this country from the age of 17, the legal age for driving in France is 18.

One other major difference for drivers is France’s Crit’Air vignette – their ‘clean air’ stickers. In some areas you must have such a sticker on show, to state that your vehicle’s emission levels are low enough to adhere to its regulations. You can get an on-the-spot fine of up to £117 for not have this sticker.

There are two different types of zones in France. Some areas are low emission zones, known as ZCRs, and others can be emergency low emission zones, known as ZPAs. The latter only restricts access when that location is at risk of dangerously high levels of air pollution. Regardless of where you are travelling, you need to make sure that you always have the relevant sticker for your vehicle, or you might still receive a fine.

The following areas currently require clean air stickers:

  • Paris
  • Lyon
  • Grenoble
  • Lille
  • Strasbourg
  • Toulouse
  • Chambery
  • Marseille

The RAC has stated: Between now and 2020, it is expected that some 25 areas will take part in the scheme, with the RAC anticipating Bordeaux and Rouen to join in before the end of 2018.


French law requires that you always have personal ID about your person, so it is worth keeping your passport on you.


It’s always worth putting the effort in to learn the expected manners of a country you are visiting. Overall, you’ll have a much more positive experience, if you do.

One of the most important things to remember is to shake hands when you are first introduced to someone. Often people associate French greetings with cheek-kissing, but that generally tends to be for those who are better acquainted.

Another one which we didn’t initially consider is how to respond when offered food or drink. If, for example, you were offered a top-up of wine, you would tend to say ‘thank you’ as a way of saying yes. However, in France, saying ‘merci’ would count as a refusal, like saying ‘no, thank you’. If you do want more to eat or drink, when offered, it is typical to respond with ‘Oui, s’il vous plait’.

When entering a shop, you should remember to greet any staff members by saying bonjour (in the daytime) or bonsoir (in the evening).

If you really want to mind your manners and leave the locals with a positive impression, it is always a nice touch to ask them if they speak English – ‘Bonjour, est-ce que vous parlez l’anglais?’ – rather than assuming.

Our final tip for you is how to approach someone, if you wish to speak to them. It is considered rude to shout across the room, so make sure to move closer, before you start a conversation.

There are, of course, many other differences between our cultures, and these are just a few to get you started. Do you have any tips or experiences that you wish to share, in order to help out other travellers? Feel free to let us know on our social media pages, and we can add them to our article!

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