Going on an LDS mission is an experience that brings much joy and requires considerable preparation. Here at Zion Bags, we want to help Mormon missionaries prepare ahead to succeed when they are in the mission field. To that effect, we will be posting weekly advice on the necessary preparations for elders and sisters going to each specific mission area in the world. This advice will be drawn from experience, official LDS sources, and guest bloggers. In continuation of this series, we will focus on Europe and each week will post about the countries within it. This week: France. Feel free to ask us questions or give suggestions in the comments! We welcome your input.
France is a popular tourist destination for both Europeans and Americans. You might have had the chance to visit it yourself before receiving your mission call. In any case, you should read on for advice specific to the missionary experience in France. Bon voyage!
Formality in the Language
The French are more formal in their interactions, especially in larger cities, compared to Americans. They will use the polite form – “vous” instead of “tu” (plural “you” instead of singular) – to greet people they don’t know. In cities that are large metropolitan centers, smiling or speaking to people walking by is frowned upon. If street contacting is not yielding very good results for you, try different ways to spark a conversation, and understand that you will have to adapt your methods to the culture.
While speaking to people on the street is not recommended, it’s considered rude not to greet shopkeepers or clerks that are helping you out with your purchases. You can greet them with a simple “Bonjour madame/monsieur,” which can lead to short conversations on everyday topics, and small opportunities to share the joy of the Gospel.
Contrary to popular belief, most French don’t speak English, but they will greatly appreciate your attempts to speak French. If you have no experience with the language, and find yourself having a hard time the first few months in the country, don’t be discouraged. Try to speak as much as possible, whether it is when you visit members or investigators, and let them help you and correct you. It really is the best and fastest way to learn a new language.
Formality in Clothing
While in the States most people wear casual clothing unless required by their job, in France different activities require specific dress codes. You won’t have a problem looking professional because of the mission attire requirements, but in addition to wearing dark colors and suits or skirts, make sure your clothes are clean and wrinkle-free. You should be able to purchase a small clothing iron in France, which will be your best friend in helping you blend in.
If you will be eating at a restaurant, observe what people going in are wearing – this will help you gauge not only the appropriate dress, but also the price of the food (the more dressed up people are, the more expensive the restaurant). As mentioned before, make sure your clothes are clean and ironed for any occasion.
Differences in Food
The French place an emphasis on fresh food, and at least once a week you may find a type of farmers’ market in the city where you serve. You will also find many pastry shops where you can stop to get food when on the go. Take the chance to eat healthy by avoiding canned or super-processed foods, which are usually harder to find and best avoided entirely. Your body will thank you, and you will be blessed with the health and strength to do the Lord’s work, as promised in the Word of Wisdom.
Differences in Greetings and Behavior
As mentioned above, the French are more formal with their greetings, but they are also more likely to go for a cheek kiss than a hand-shake. They will usually do air kisses, not a full-on kiss on the cheek, but knowing this beforehand can help you avoid many an awkward situation. Another custom you should be aware of as a missionary in France is that you don’t acknowledge when someone sneezes. You’re better off pretending it didn’t happen.
Leave us a comment and make sure you subscribe to follow our blog.