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Language and Etiquette

Wheeled Sorts

The French tend to be quite formal although the Provençeaux in general, and the Niçois in particular, can be a little less so than the inhabitants of other regions. It is not considered polite to use anyone’s first or given name unless invited to do so or to indulge in cheek kissing (faire la bise) unless the person you are meeting initiates the process.


French is the main language spoken in Nice and the surrounding area.

Always say ‘Bonjour’ when meeting someone or entering a shop and don’t forget ‘au Revoir’ when you leave. ‘S’il vous plait’ and ‘Merci’ are both essential phrases. If you’ve never spoken French before you may feel a little awkward at first but it is essential if you want to get along with folks and get the most out of your visit.

You may find that the person you are speaking to wants to practise their English – I’ve often found myself in the bizarre situation of endeavoring to speak to someone in French who insists on speaking to me in English! Nowadays I indulge them as there will be plenty who don’t speak English and on the whole they will respect your efforts.


While you are most likely to encounter French, sometimes you will hear the locals speaking Nissart which is a dialect of the old Oc language. You will certainly notice dual language signs.

Street Life

Although things have improved in recent years, the politeness you find on the street or in shops does not always extend to the road. Always make sure drivers are intending to stop before you step out onto a crossing and, if driving yourself, don’t assume that a driver flashing his/her lights at you wants you to proceed – he/she is probably warning you that ‘Les Flics’ (Gendarmes) are waiting down the road to check your speed!


The ancient language of Nice

Text © Paul Shawcross

Image by Kurt Bauschardt