International Studies Abroad ®est. 1987


Culture Corner

French Culture

The French are very proud when it comes to their cuisine. France is well-known throughout the world for its culinary arts. Amateurs and professionals flock to France, and particularly Paris, to study and experience food at its finest—gastronomie en France. La gastronomie can be traced throughout all other aspects of the French way of life and culture, too. Meals and meal-time, grocery shopping, tourism and more are all affected by this tradition—rich in more ways than one.

French Language
More so than food, language is arguably one of the most coveted and protected elements of the French culture. While seemingly critical of the use of their language, the French are very proud when non-native speakers learn French and try to communicate with them in their own language. Preservation of the integrity of the language is also of the utmost importance, and there is even an official institution, L'Académie française, designated to monitor the usage and evolution of French over the decades.

For the French, a certain politeness and courtesy is a necessary and expected behavior. This politesse, or pleasantries, is pervasive in everyday life: saying bonjour, au revoir; merci, and s'il vous plait, giving up seats to the elderly or pregnant women, minding others' personal space (audibly and physically). While the list is not very long, these pleasantries are expected behaviors, and it is considered very rude if they are not practiced. On the other hand, smiling, an "American" behavior, is not commonplace, and if used too frequently, is seen as disingenuous.

Monuments & Must-Sees

Eiffel Tower
Students should certainly visit one of the most famous Parisian landmarks, the Eiffel Tower. Here you will learn about the history of the structure that has become an international symbol for Paris as they enjoy the view from the top.

Champs-Elysées & Arc de Triomphe
A walking tour of the Champs-Elysées and the Arc de Triomphe is a great way to familiarize yourself with one of the most famous boulevards that is found in your new city.

Musée d'Orsay & the Louvre
Students can take a guided tour of the Musée d'Orsay (a museum that was once a train station) to view the many impressionist and post-impressionist paintings, sculptures. The Musée d'Orsay is one of the most popular museums in Paris.

Paris "Arrondissements"
Divided into 20 arrondissements, or districts, Paris is a city with lots of character and diversity. Each arrondissement is numbered, with the 1st starting at Ile de la Cité, where "point zero" of Paris (as well as Notre Dame) is found. From here, the arrondissements continue in a snail-like fashion up to number 20. It is easy to know in which arrondissement, or "quartier" you are, as all street signs note the arrondissement number. As a general guide, read below short descriptions of some different arrondissements that make up the diverse personality of Paris.

  • 1st - As noted above, this is "point zero" of Paris, where the city was founded, and that is home to the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Tuileries gardens, the Prefecture, and much more.
  • 3rd - The famed "Centre Pompidou" is found here, just north of Hotel de Ville, found in the 4th district.
  • 5th - Once the "academic soul" of Paris, this is where the Sorbonne was founded, and where the main university center is located. This is one of the most famous parts of Paris, which is widely known as the Latin Quarter.
  • 6th - Just as the 5th is more widely known as the Latin Quarter, the 6th arrondissement is referred to as "St Germain des-Pres." One of the oldest churches is found in this quarter, and is home to several upscale boutiques. This area was once the hot-spot for writers, including Ernest Hemmingway.
  • 7th - Aside from its quiet, wealthy residential areas, this quarter is home to the Eiffel Tower.
  • 8th - From Place de la Concorde to just in front of the Arc de Troimph runs the Champs Elysée, along which high-end shops are found as well as the Grand Palais.
  • 9th - Home to the Paris Opera, or Palais Garnier, the southern part of this district is very chic. Just north of this area within the same district, you will also find Place Pigalle and the Moulin Rouge.
  • 14th - Montparnasse, the tallest skyscraper in Paris is located in this district, along with several cafes, boutiques and a main train station.
  • 18th - Otherwise known as Montmartre, this is a hot-spot for artist and tourists alike, as well as being a very old and expensive residential neighborhood of Paris. It is also the location of the Sacre Coeur.

Cultural Activities

Paris has endless activities for international visitors to enjoy. Listed below are some different cultural activities to do while in Paris. You can do many of these activities on your own, with friends, or they may be sponsored by ISA. Upon arrival to Paris, different sponsored cultural activities will be announced throughout your program abroad.

Pack a bag with French cheese, a baguette, jambon de Paris, a blanket and head to one of the many parks that Paris has to offer! Many Parisians take advantage of great weather by doing so. Gather friends, practice your French and enjoy the sites and sounds of the "outdoor" Paris. If you don't have time for a park, grab a quick "jambon sandwich" and park yourself along the Seine for a quick lunch.

Cooking Classes
Take cooking classes in a city renowned for its restaurants and a country famous for its amazing food! Classes are available throughout the city and during different times of the week for all different levels (and languages!).

"Football" Matches
The European sport of sports is also prevalent in Paris. The "City of Light's" team is called Paris St.-Germain FC, or PSG for short. The PSG home stadium, the Parc des Princes, is one of the largest football stadiums in France and is located in the 16th arrondissement of Paris.

If you're lucky, you may get the chance to see the French National football team who often play in the Stade de France in a suburb just north of Paris called Saint-Denis. The Stade de France, one of the largest football stadiums in Europe, was the site of the 1998 FIFA World Cup and is where the French National team usually hosts home matches.

"Les Puces" (Flea-markets)
A common weekend activity for Parisians is to visit large flea-markets, where an array of items for sales are found. Peruse the offerings, barter for bargains and throw yourselves into the hustle and bustle the atmosphere has to offer!

Boat tour of the Seine River
Students will take a ride on the Seine River at night via Bateaux-Mouche to marvel at the views Paris has to offer at night.

With endless neighborhoods and possibilities, it is hard not to shop in Paris! Paris offers anything from up-scale boutiques to chains to small thrift stores. You'll find that, along with restaurants, cafés and museums, the streets are lined with all sorts of different stores.

Cultural Immersion

Language Exchanges
Students will be given the opportunity to meet local and international students wishing to share their knowledge of French and learn English in exchange. This activity, based on student interest, is a great way to get to know other students of Paris, and share your culture and language with others while learning more about your surroundings and French student counterparts!

While there is no structured volunteer program offered, any student truly interested in volunteering while in Paris can work with the ISA Paris staff to find different opportunities. Students simply present different organizations or areas that interest them and the Paris staff can help you figure out how to get involved.

Stay connected while you're abroad and share your experience with your peers back home on the ISA Student Blog, one of WordPress' top 23 recommended travel blogs! Each summer and semester the ISA Student Blog features current ISA students as bloggers, photo bloggers, and video bloggers who document their time abroad to share with their friends, family, prospective students, advisers, and more. If sharing your study abroad experience through writing, photos, videos and other media while receiving professional guidance and feedback appeals to you, consider applying to be an ISA Featured Blogger, Photo Blogger, or Video Blogger. The Site Specialist for your program will email all accepted students to notify you when ISA is accepting applications for all ISA Featured Blogger programs. Please contact the ISA Blog Team at if you have any questions.

Cultural Blogs
We also suggest you check out the plethora of other cultural blogs available on the web to learn more about others' experiences in Paris, cultural happenings, and expat lives.

Language Resources

Helpful Phrases
Bonjour Hello/Good morning
Bonsoir Good evening
Au revoir Goodbye

Comment ça va? How's it going?
Comment allez-vous? How are you? (Formal)
Comment vous-appelez vous? What is your name? (Formal)
Comment tu t'appelles? What is your name? (Informal)

Où se trouve le/la...? Where is the...?

Je ne comprends pas. I don't understand.
Parlez-vous anglais? Do you speak English?
Je ne parle pas français. I don't speak French

Je voudrais... I would like...
Excusez-moi. Excuse me.

On-line Dictionary Resource

Verb conjugation
We suggest you look up some helpful websites dedicated to verb conjugations in French.

Listening & Speaking
Check out some different French podcasts available to practice your verbal and listening skills.

Beware of translation websites...much can be LOST in translation!