Family Life

Family Priority

Family life is important in France where family activities and outings take precedence over teenager activities on Sundays. Extended family is also important and, if able, grandparents and extended family have a visible role.

Dining Together

During the school year, lunch is typically eaten at school and dinner tends to occur in shifts.

Children in elementary school first bathe, change into pajamas and then eat around 7:00 pm.

Older children eat with their parents, normally at 8:00 pm, which is the standard French dinnertime. In some of the families in which I have lived, the father arrived home late from work and the mother ate dinner with him at 9:00 pm after all the children finished eating.

Sunday lunch is the largest family meal of the week when all family members are present and may also take place at the grandparent’s home. It is generally eaten around 1:00 pm or 2:00 pm and is followed by long conversation, walks in the park, museum outing, watching a soccer match on TV, or other family activities.

Home activities

Families spend time together at home doing a variety of activities. In my experience living with host families in France, I have seen a wide variety, from cooking, playing board or card games, watching movies or sports on TV, taking a walk, shopping, and listening to music.


French parents demand a great deal of respect from their children who learn how to behave from an early age. French are strong believers in establishing rules and guidelines in which children are given freedom when they stay within the guidelines, but are punished if they misbehave. Parents are in charge of their children and seem well aware of the consequences if they give in to a child’s will.

Independence for children

The concept of independence is instilled in children at an early age. For example, when parents take their children to the park, if they are old enough, parents allow them to play by themselves or with others. Rarely do you see a French mother playing actively in the park with her children. There are also fewer activities vying for children’s attention, which make the children responsible for finding things to do to fill their weekends, especially Saturdays. Helicopter parents are a rarity as it is the school’s job to prepare students for the all-important end of high school test, le baccalauréat. The parent’s primarily keep on eye on the hours their children devote to studying.


The majority of French spend their vacations in France and travel primarily by car. My host parents explained that in the working world, employees generally receive five weeks of vacation per year in addition to eleven holidays. August is the most popular time to go on vacation.


Dogs are the most popular domestic animal in France, with cats following close behind. Although, none of my host families had a pet, dogs are seen all over Paris.