The Meaning of Gifts in France

The Meaning of Gifts in France

by Audrey Sivadier

Updated November 8, 2022

Christmas is here! Are you the kind of person who’s early and everything’s already wrapped up, or are you like me and do everything at the last minute? Be careful in the rush, you could make mistakes …

The language of flowers

The dictionary is formal: a gift is something you offer someone to please them, so it would be good to know the meaning of what you are offering so you don’t make any blunders. Whether it is for a birthday, a wedding, a birth or Christmas, the gift you give can have a hidden meaning.

Even without any special occasion, be careful about the colour of the flowers you may offer! Indeed, if roses are one of the most frequently offered flowers, not all of them are necessarily appropriate. Giving yellow roses to the one you love will not be in the best taste as they symbolise infidelity and jealousy. To declare your passion burning, nothing beats the red rose while the purple rose will be the most beautiful statement for a love at first sight and the white rose a way to show the purity of your feelings.

beautiful yellow roses given as a gift

Gifts to avoid

Some gifts can hide an implicit meaning such as soaps or even perfume: if you receive lots of them, you will tend to wonder if one disapproves your appearance or your smell….

Another gift to avoid because it comes with a lot of superstitions: offering a blade or a knife in particular. For some French people, this gift “cuts” the friendship and the receiver will have to give something (often a coin) to the donor in return to keep the ties that bind them.

Upset man because of unhappy boring present

Gift failures

In 2019, it is unthinkable to find these gifts at the foot of the Christmas tree, and yet… There are still sexist gifts: household appliances for women and tools for men. These useful gifts aren’t acceptable in our century!

Another example of a failed gift is too expensive gifts. This oversized generosity can hide an unconscious need to dominate the other.

Poisoned gifts

The donor thought it would please you, but no… A dog or cat living in an apartment is a poisoned gift! This becomes a burden, and can imprison you or deny your way of life. Just like a noisy or musical gift offered to a newborn…

I think the worst gift I’ve ever received was a fake six-foot plant: you can’t get rid of it, it never fades, it cannot be forgotten in a move because it is clearly visible… A fire could happen so quickly, but it has serious consequences for the house!

Cute bulldog given as a christmas gift

The ideal gift

An ideal Christmas gift is unique because it is exchanged simultaneously between members of the same family. Moreover, whether it is for Christmas or a birthday, in France, the donor will wait for you to open the gift in front of him/her, to see your reaction.

Therefore, my preference is for gifts that we can share, those that create a moment of complicity, those that we will remember, because we have seen the pleasure and joy in the receiver’s eyes. I also like gifts that can be eaten: pastries, a good bottle, a restaurant…

Giving a present implies knowing how to put yourself in the shoes of the person who receives it. The key is therefore: personalisation. 

opening a christmas present wrapped in beautiful wrapping paper

A good gift is (use the following list as a checklist):

– customised

– not too expensive… or too cheap

– it gives as much pleasure to the one who receives it as to the one who offers it

– it reveals the personality and desires of the donor and the receiver

– it can make people laugh without mocking

christmas presents underneath the christmas tree

Sensitive topics

Delicate, but in the end, why not? The gift list can be a solution. It is commonly accepted for weddings, so why not for birthdays or the letter to Papa Noël? The advantage of lists is that they make both sides happy.

Finally, resell your gifts? Don’t panic. If you don’t like the present you’ve been given then it is possible to exchange it or resell it on specialised websites… Not very admirable, of course, but practiced by thousands of disappointed people. What if the solution was to get to know your loved ones better, to take an interest in their passions or simply to ask them what they would like to receive? And if they are learning a language, here are the best Christmas gift for language learners.


If you’d like to learn more about languages, and also the culture and traditions behind them, visit the Lingoda website and sign up for your free 7 day trial. 

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