The Art of French Window Licking

The Art of French Window Licking

(photo source)

French Phrase of the Day: Faire du lèche-vitrines

Last week, I was chatting with a friend from work about his plans for the weekend. He mentioned that he and his wife were going “window licking”. He could tell by the puzzled and surprised look on my face that he had caught me off guard with this unique phrase. He explained that he and his wife had recently been to France where “window licking”, or what Americans call window shopping, is quite popular. Whether it’s during a coffee break or on a weekend stroll through Paris, the French love faire du lèche-vitrines, which literally means “to lick the windows”, while browsing anything from department stores to patisseries.

Although this may seem like a familiar past-time to Americans, window licking could be considered a skill or even an art in France. It is also an art that lends itself to written and unwritten guidelines about window licking or full-blow shopping.

Travel writer extraodinare, Rick Steves, recognizes that window licking is an important part of the French culture. But he goes on to say that if you do actually take window licking to a higher level, keep in mind the proper French etiquette for shopping:

According to Steves, before you enter a store in France, you should keep in mind the following:

  1. In small stores, always greet the clerk by saying “Bonjour” plus their title (MadameMademoiselle, orMonsieur) and say “Au revoir, Madame/Mademoiselle/Monsieur” when leaving.
  2. The customer is not always right. In fact, figure the clerk is doing you a favor by waiting on you.
  3. Except for in department stores, it’s not normal for the customer to handle clothing. Ask first.
  4. Forget returns (and don’t count on exchanges).
  5. Saturday afternoons are busiest.
  6. Observe French shoppers. Then imitate.
  7. Don’t feel obliged to buy. The expression for “window-shopping” in French is faire du lèche-vitrines

Happy Shopping Everyone. Ciao!

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