10 Typical French Gestures

French GesturesAre you aware that when you travel to a different country or to a different culture, not only the language is different, but a lot of the gestures as well? Yes, gestures are pretty much part of a culture.

Granted the hand shake is pretty much used the world over, but what about all those other gestures that people use on a daily basis to express things?

For example, Korean and Japanese people bend over slightly to say hello. It’s a very distinct gesture of theirs; whilel Chinese don’t.

France has quite a few gestures of its own as well. Here are 10 typical French gestures that you would see people use in France, and which are not common or not existent here in the US.

# 1 – Un, deux, trois (counting on our fingers 1,2,3…)

When counting on their fingers, French do not start with the index finger, but with the thumb.  Also, when using their finger to say “there is one…” they are showing the thumb, not the index finger.


# 2 – La Bise (the kiss on the cheek)

La bise is actually not only French as it’s common in most Europe. La bise is when people touch cheek to cheek while making a kiss sound with the mouth.  The mouth is not supposed to touch the cheek.  Now if you want to be very loving, like kissing your kids or parents, or someone very close you can make mouth cheek contact.

La bise is used to say, hello, good bye, and show appreciation such as thank you.

If you want to see some bises in action, check out the videos in my previous post, there’re many of them.

# 3 – Il a un verre dans le nez (literally means “he has a


glass in the nose” common slang for he’s drunk)

If you are talking about someone who has drank a bit too much or is actually drunk, you are going to close your fist and make a rotation gesture in front of your nose.

#4 – Il a du nez (literally means “he has nose“slang for “he has insights or intuition)

Just tap the tip of your nose with your index finger as you say that!


# 5 – Mon Oeil (literally “my eye” meaning, no way, I don’t buy it)

When doubting something to the point of not believing it we say “mon oeil” as we gently pull the lower lid of one eye down. This is the polite, but very much used version of “my butt” or “my ass” in France.

# 6 – Je ne suis pas sure Shred of shoulders (I’m not sure, maybe)

Shredding your shoulders in France doesn’t mean the same thing as it does here. In France it simply mean OK maybe, but I’m not sure, as you wish.

# 7 – Ça me barbe (literally means “it beards me” meaning I’m bored or annoyed)

To express this we rub the back of our hand against our cheek in a rather fast back and forth fashion.

# 8 – Y’a du fric “there’s lots of money” or “it cost lots of money”


“fric” is the slang word for “argent”(money)

This gesture is rubbing the fingers of your right hand together with the palm of your hand facing up



# 9 – Barrons-nous (Literally meant “let’s scratch ourselves” French slang for let’s go or let’s get out of here)

To express this, people usually tap their left wrist with opposite hand in a fast motion.


# 10 – The Bad Gesture! Le Bras d’Honneur!

French Comic "Coluche"
French Comic “Coluche”

There is no showing of the finger in France the way people do here in the United States, but they is an equivalent which is closing your fist and taping your farm with your hand has you lift your arm in the air.

It’s called “un bras d’honneur, which means an arm of honor, while it’s the worst insulting gesture in France.  Go figure!

There are many more gestures out there, but here are 10 typical ones pertaining to the French!


 Watch my spontaneous video telling you a little bit more about all these! No editing!

Please, leave your comments below!

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I hope you enjoyed this post, and will start applying those tips now. Please, let me know what you think and add your thoughts down below in the comments.
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14 thoughts on “10 Typical French Gestures”

  1. Hi Sylviane,

    Just love your video! These gestures that you have explained come in handy for me especially now. Living in Maine, we have many French Canadians that come here. It is good to understand the gestures. They may be Canadian, but carry French gestures. I’m looking out for number 5! Just in case.

    Thanks I enjoy learning about these things. Oh….by the way #10 in Italian means F you he hehe almost the same.

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    1. Hi Donna,

      Yep #10 means that in France too it’s the equivalent of the finger here 🙂 Yes, Italians do that too! I remember 🙂

      I made this video in the same amount of time that it last. Since I couldn’t figure out how to make my camera work to shoot that video with this Windows 8 thing I just did it on YouTube directly. OH, well, what the heck:) It was spontenous.

      Thanks for coming, my dear friend.
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  2. Hi Sylviane,

    This was a lot of fun! I had no idea there were so many gestures I’d never heard of. I knew about the counting thing, I’ve seen people do that before (it always struck me as funny) but not really the others.

    Funny though, my older relatives (who were a bit more European in their habits) always used to say “my eye!” when they thought you were full of BS. They never did the gesture as far as I know but I do remember the phrase. Also I remember them doing the money gesture. Actually, I do it sometimes if I’m trying to make a point about something being REALLY expensive but not even worth it. My dad does that one when he wants to say something is crazy overpriced or show that someone is very wealthy.

    But I think the eye is definitely my favorite. It’s like a secret gesture I can do to people now and they’ll never know what it means 🙂
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    1. Hi Carol,

      I’m glad you came by here again and now understand why your older relatives where saying and doing those things 🙂

      For me the counting starting with the index is still hard to do, as it doesn’t come naturally. It’s funny how even simple gestures are learned and embedded into our brain.

      Thanks you so much for your comment.
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  3. Hi Sylviane,

    Very interesting, and I loved the video – you explained it all so well 🙂

    I think every country has certain typical gestures, but the last one was too funny and very unlike what we see elsewhere. I like the kiss one too and the fact that you had to explain what it wasn’t actually!

    I thought the glass in the nose was so funny and #8 is quite similar to what a few people use our end too though it might even to indicate very little.

    Thanks for sharing this with us. Have a nice weekend 🙂
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  4. Hey Sylviane,

    I chuckled over this one now.

    I’ve seen the counting and of course I thought it was weird but what do you expect right!

    Now the eye gesture. What I usually do with that is I’ll tug on my eye too but I follow that by saying “see the concern in my eye” which of course I’m sure that you know what that means. I don’t give a sh*t! lol…

    #6, #8 and #10 I’m also familiar with so I’m not sure if that came over from France or some of us here in Texas just do that too. Yeah, we’re not the norm in Texas.

    Oh and taking the index finger and rubbing it together with your thumb is an expression of a mini violin playing. Yet another version of the I don’t really care. Oh yeah, we have our own too but I always find these posts fun. I always learn things from you and I really enjoyed your video. Great job girl!

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    1. Hi Adrienne,

      Well, I wish my stupid ex-boss knew about the shred of the shoulder as much as you do, Adrienne, because once I didn’t that as a gesture of an “OK, fine” and she took it for a “I don’t care” thing, in a bad way.

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen # 10 in the US, but maybe it’s in Texas, uhm?

      I had to just shoot that video live as I can’t figure out how to record a stupid video with that Windows 8 while I could do just fine with my old computer 🙂

      I’m glad you had fun with this one, and thanks for coming, Adrienne!
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  5. This was awesome! I saw someone kiss each others cheeks the other day and they didn’t touch at all, then I see it here. I never gave much thought to the gestures that each country has. I remember a book I bought about speaking Italian, but it was the “bad” language. Then I had a friend tell me that some of the gestures we do come off silly to them. Either way, I enjoyed the video and the step by step pictures. I use to work for a French man and he used a few that I recognized here.
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  6. Really I just fell in love with France just because of your amazing information and interesting articles. Gestures can become problematic too if do not use them correctly. Gestures are differ from country to country. Thumbs Up to your article 🙂 In India, it is commonly used to express ” I love it ” or ” I like it “

  7. Great article, really brightened up my afternoon!

    I’m always interested in how these different customs come about in different countries, especially when neighbouring countries just up the road have completely different gestures.

    Best wishes, Kate

  8. This is one very educational post, Sylviane. I didn’t know French people have many gestures that only them could understand. Thanks for sharing. I love the video as well.

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