French Language Blog

Confusing French Stories Posted by on Jun 3, 2015 in Culture

There are some differences between the US and France that I took for granted. The first time I ordered a coffee, I was surprised by the size of the drink, and the first time I had a meeting in France I showed up at the right address, but on the wrong floor of the building! How could I have made such a strange mistake? I had printed out the email telling me where to go:

prémier étage (first floor)

Cependant (however), Monsieur Tout-le-monde (John Doe) was nowhere to be found. Aprés avoir revérifié (after double checking), I decided to call Monsieur Tout-le-monde and find out where he was. The conversation was rather strange:

– Allô ?
– Allô M. Tout-le-monde, je suis John Bauer, la personne avec qui vous avez un rendez-vous.
– Oui.
– Je suis au premier étage de votre bâtiment, mais je n’arrive pas à trouver votre bureau. Vous êtes bien au premier étage ?
– Oui, je suis bien au premier étage…
– …

– Hello?
Hello John Doe, I am John Bauer, the person with whom you have a meeting.
I am on the first floor of your building, but I can’t seem to find your office. You are on the first floor, right?
Yes, I am on the first floor...

After an awkward silence I remembered that le premier étage (the first floor) in France isn’t the same as the first floor in the US! Le premier étage is the second floor and the first floor is le rez-de-chaussée!

– Ah! Je suis désolé je me suis trompé d’étage ! J’arrive tout de suite !

– Ah! I’m sorry, I mixed up the floors! I’ll be right there!

For people outside of North America, this little mix up might seem especially unusual. In most of Europe and in many other English speaking countries stories are counted like they are en France. The floor connected to the road is le rez-de-chaussée or the ground floor, and le premier étage only begins on the floor above. Mixing up which floor is which étage has made me check the floors whenever I’m meeting someone now!

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.


  1. Denise:

    Thanks for posting

  2. Francesca:

    Thank you for sharing! When I went to study abroad in Angers, I was confused as well. This brings back good memories. 🙂