How to Email like the French (yes it’s different!)

By: Andrea Bouchaud

Did you know that email etiquette isn’t the same in every country even though it is a global form of communication? We all know from personal experiences that sometimes our message can be misinterpreted between 2 English speakers so it is not surprising that miscommunication in email can happen cross culturally.

For example, in the United States it is perfectly acceptable to not even address someone in an email and to immediately go into the purpose of your email. In France this is considered rude. When sending an email in France (no matter if in English or in French- depending upon the situation) you must always greet the person (Bonjour Marie) and ask how they are doing (Comment vas- tu? / Comment allez-vous) before going into the nature of your email.

Let’s take a look at an example email I would send to a French person in France:

Bonjour Marie,

Comment vas-tu? J’espère que tout va bien. Pourrais-tu m’aider avec le projet de Prof Maillot? Je suis nulle en science. Merci bcp!



In the above example, I was asking my friend Mary for help with a science project for Professor Maillot’s class as I am no good in science. I started the email with a greeting and asked how she was doing and expressed that I hoped all is well with her.

French language and culture is more formal and it shows in all forms of communication. I would also use this for IM and a little bit for texting.

For more information on how to write emails in French, check out this great website I found called  Comme Une Française. It was a 2 minute video about how to use key words/phrases in French email from a native French woman.

Want more tips/articles and advice on French language, culture and study abroad? Follow me on twitter  at @twentyinparis


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