What are some taboos in French culture? Why?
Money. I often consider it the equivalent of the American taboo against sex.
Where a frenchman would say of sex- Everyone likes and needs sex! Why not talk about it ??
The Americans will easily say- Everyone likes and needs money! Why not talk about it ??
Catholic background brings forth the idea that poverty is blessed and the rich are sinful and corrupt.
Don't ask someone how much they make, or even, in some cases, how much they paid for something (if you know the person well and it is clear you are considering buying the same thing or something, it can be broached delicately, but caution is appropriate).
Also, as much as they like debating politics, it is taboo to expose your political affiliation. You don't tell people who you voted for. (My own husband does not tell me who he votes for). Because the french like debate and are capable of defending a point that is not even theirs, that does not necessarily expose their personal leanings.
I've found one yesterday here on Quora:
One cannot talk openly about the fact that most people of many parts of northern Paris are no longer of European origin, that, this is the sentence that got me a few bad words:" there are suburbs and quarters in Paris where the whites are no longer the majority", and that the data we had on the matter was biased because it is forbidden in France to make race distinction and that likewise, an immigrant is an immigrant, his/her kids aren't and are considered as any regular French.
A certain person felt the need to educate me on the almighty knowledge, precision and wisdom of France's main census office, the fact that she was herself going to those places every now and then to see a friend for a cup of tea, and that I was wrong, and possibly an asshole (not mentionned, strongly suggested, replaced by "humanoïd"...).
I offered to go there together, see by ourselves, I repeated that I myself did not go there for a cuppa but had actually lived there for more than fifteen years:
No cigar, I HAD to be wrong.
And an ass.
Well: there are quarters of Paris where the whites no longer form the majority of the inhabitants, la Chapelle quarter is one, Chateau rouge another, Barbès, Crimée, Stalingrad are too.
Take that, miss X.
There are no taboos per se apart from hate speech that is in any case condemned by law but there are subjects considered improper, unseemly, or even incorrect.
This is particularly the case with all remarks relating to money, possessed fortune or appearance based on wealth. It is extremely frowned upon and will make you exclude from several circles, any social class confused. Just don't do it if you do not want to be swept back to the rank of nouveau riche, I'm pretty sure that Sarkozy's bling style cost him his re-election.
The influence of American debates is felt on all kinds of subjects but are generally taken with a bit of salt be it feminism, transgender, veganism and other liberal inventions.
On the other hand, if it is a subject which annoys the French to the highest level it is the ethnic aspects, the debate to know if the Spaniards are white or not can quickly degenerate in France. Don't do it unless you want to start a physical confrontation...
One of the major taboo is talking about money, whether in a bragging or in a normal way. That's true of most Europeans, but it's taken to extremes in France.
NEVER ask a French person how much they make (chances are they'll lie to you anyway) and don't tell them how much you make. By and large, I would advise to steer clear of that topic altogether.
In most cases, it's a relatively easy thing to do, but for example, if you discuss job related topics and you want to know how much you can make in a given field of business it can get tricky.
There are lots of food and eating-related "taboos" like this in France, but a foreigner is normally excused from knowing about them. For example, you should cut yourself a wedge of cheese from a whole cheese such as a Camembert, rather than cutting a piece out of the middle, because everyone should have an equal amount of cheese and rind. You hold the bottle of wine by the body, not the neck, when pouring. You always offer to serve others (food or wine) before taking a helping for yourself. You keep your hands visible, not under the table, throughout a meal. You eat almost everything with a knife and fork, including pizza and hamburgers.
There are not that many taboo in French culture. But I would answer you question slightly differently:
If you attend a lunch or diner, there are 3 topics you you should avoid;
- Money (personal incomes )
You have 99% of risk to upset at least one of the guests.
Why: In France, we don't ‘estimate' someone's values based on any of these criteria.
Thanks for the A2A! Apart from things like cannibalism or incest, I'm scratching my head a little bit on this question.
I think that the "taboos" listed in the other answers apply only in some specific situations, and are not general rules never to be broken. They are rather lists of faux-pas (see What are some cultural faux pas in France?) than taboos that would earn you a lifelong social stigma by breaking them once.
Personally, I broke several times almost all the items listed in the Pierrick Jaouen's answer (except the "Are you from North Africa?", which may be a stupid and offensive question in some very specific contexts, but is not a taboo in itself-there is no prohibition over genuine discussions about genealogy).
Every countries and civisations has their own "taboos", not only French people...
Now... what is a "taboo", in your mind? What do you call a taboo? A different kind of well manner or respect that you don't have in your country like to not speak with your mouth full, not talk outloud in a public place, not make intense eye contact with women, respect the bubble distance when talking with people, not saying "tu" to a stranger on the first meeting, etc... is it what you call "taboo"?
Travelling around the world gets interesting as we learn about all those different cultures.