This is a dated archive. I compiled it in 1997-98.
The GoSki domain was taken over and redesigned in 2005. Frank

Home
GoSki Experts

Frank Romary:
The Truth About The French!

In January 1983, while living in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, Frank Romary and his wife Mary joined some friends on a trip to Les Trois Vallées, France. After several visits they decided to spend an entire season, and in November 1987 moved into an apartment in the village of St. Martin de Belleville. That season stretched to nearly nine years.

Frank and Mary now live in Vermont. Frank is retired US Air Force, a former member of the National Ski Patrol and Trois Vallées ski guide. There are no Americans alive who know Les Trois Vallées better than Frank and Mary Romary. - ed.


Skiing in France is heaven on Earth for a dedicated skier. There are resorts where you can access skiing terrain that is larger than all the ski resorts in Utah and Colorado combined. An example is the 3 Vallées Ski Area which has two hundred lifts.

With a 3 Vallées ski pass you can ski the other '92 Olympic ski areas giving you a total of over 500 lifts, if you want to take your skis off. There are many runs providing vertical drops in excess of 4000 feet. Percentages of advanced, intermediate and beginner terrain in French resorts are roughly equal to those at most of America's large ski areas.

The larger resorts have an adequate number of restaurants and discos. It is a good idea to eat a good lunch because the mountain restaurants are normally much better than the restaurants in the ski stations.

French resorts are mostly government owned and operated. The social system puts a high percentage of money back into the areas. This provides state-of-the-art lifts, snow making and snow grooming. In general, an intermediate skier who can read a lift map will easily be able to ski all day avoiding lift lines and crowds, even during the busiest season.

The French school systems have a staggered two week winter vacation period. When the snow is good, nearly all of France migrates to the mountains for this period. The break usually covers the last two weeks of February and the first week of March. The time to absolutely avoid is the "Paris school holiday week" which will always be in the middle period of the vacation time but alternates starting the first or second week of the break.

France is the second largest country in Europe after Russia. France has 22 regions and 96 departments with 211,207 square miles. Europe's tallest peak, at 15,781 feet, is Mont Blanc in the French Alps.

No one has a more undeserved reputation about their character than the French. The French are not generally arrogant and rude. True, in large tourist centers there are unpleasant people and if you're looking for or expecting rudeness, you may just provoke it. Generally the French, especially in the countryside, are as kind as you wish and you will find warmth and acceptance. The most fractious Frenchman is easily disarmed by a little sincerity.

When greeting someone or saying good bye, always shake hands. Don't use a firm, pumping handshake, but a quick, slight pressure one. When you enter a room or a shop you should greet everyone there. If you meet a person you know very well use their first name and kiss both cheeks. Men don't usually kiss unless they are relatives.

Good topics of conversation include food, sports, hobbies and where you come from. Topics to avoid are prices, where items were bought, what someone does for a living, income and age. Questions about personal and family life are considered private. Expect to find the French well-informed about the history, culture and politics of other countries. To gain their respect, be prepared to show some knowledge of the history and politics of France.

Breakfast (petit déjeuner) is usually eaten from 7:00 to 8:00 a.m. A typical breakfast would be coffee with hot milk or hot chocolate, bread, butter, jam and sometimes croissants. Breakfast is the only meal where butter is served with bread.

Lunch (déjeuner) is usually eaten between 12:00 and 2:30 p.m. This is traditionally the main meal of the day. Lunch consists of appetizers, main course, cheeses, fruit or dessert and strong black coffee served in small cups. Wine accompanies the meal.

Dinner (dîner) is served from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. and is usually simpler than the noon meal. It can be soup or a casserole and bread. The usual after- dinner drinks are cognac, Grand Marnier and Chartreuse.

Expect to have wine served with lunch and dinner. Wine is considered to aid the digestion and to stimulate the appetite. You may choose to drink mineral water, either sparkling or flat, in addition to or instead of wine. Tap water is not customarily consumed in France and is rarely provided freely.

Wherever you eat in France, these rules of thumb will keep your costs down:

(1) Order soup; it's invariably inexpensive and always good.
(2) When in doubt, choose an omelette as your main course; French chefs coax marvelous results out of plain-ole-eggs.
(3) Don't forget "steak frites", a small, thin steak with lots of great French fries.
(4) If you are eating à la carte, never order a separate vegetable (légume) with your main course. Vegetables or potatoes will accompany it, even if it is not mentioned on the menu.
(5) Try yogurt (yaourt) for dessert. The French do and it's inexpensive.

Remember, in French washrooms, "C" marks the hot water faucet and "F" identifies the cold tap. Sometimes colors are used, red for hot and blue signifying cold.

Tipping is a way of life in France. Expect to find the service included "service compris" in most restaurant charges. If the service is not included, a 15% tip is customary. If a service charge is included, leave some change, five to seven percent is customary, on the table. FF10 is customary for chambermaids and hotel porters.

The unit of French currency is the franc (FF), and it is divided into 100 centimes. French coins are in denominations of five, 10, 20 and 50 centimes and one, two, five 10 and 20 francs. Bills are in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 francs.

Residents of countries outside of the European Economic Community (EEC) can get the tax back on some purchases after they depart France. The shop must agree to do this before you make your purchases and you must have spent at least FF 1200.00 at one time in a single store.

When driving remember to wear your seat belts, it's the law. It is illegal to blow your horn in cities. Give way to vehicles coming from the right at intersections. Do not turn right on red lights. Watch out for very fast drivers who constantly pass, even on narrow mountain roads. The toll autoroutes are expensive. Traffic regulations are enforced and there can be on the spot fines for traffic infractions.

France is generally a very safe country to visit. Pickpockets, however, are not unheard of. In large cities particularly, take precautions against theft. Always secure your vehicles, leave nothing of value visible and don't carry your wallet in your back pocket. Beware of begging children!

Useful French Words and Phrases

Copyright© 1996- by RomCom