Things about France that surprised me: the French don’t do cards

In my 13 years living in France, I have not once received a greetings card of any kind from my wide circle of friends and acquaintances. Should I be concerned? No, because the French don’t do greetings cards, not like the Brits.

UK consumers lead the rest of the world in sending greetings cards. In a recent survey, over a third (37%) of UK adults said they had sent a greetings card, invitation or postcard in the post in the last month – the highest in the world and beating Australia into second spot (34%).

I cannot say I was surprised to learn that consumers in France were the least likely to send greetings cards, with only 17% saying they had done so – half the amount in the UK. If anything, I was astonished it was so high. Must be all those British immigrants skewing the statistics.

It’s not just physical greetings cards, I’ve never even received an e-card from any of my French friends, generally just an email thanking us for our Xmas card and wishing us all the best for the following year. Likewise, in response to our Xmas cards, some of our neighbours have sent us handwritten thank you notes.

So why is this?

The sending of cards isn’t as common in France as in some other countries. It isn’t, for example, usual to send someone a card following a bereavement or after passing an exam. Instead of Christmas cards, the French send New Year cards, but only to people they don’t normally see during the year, which is what we now do.

Card to please

Sending Christmas cards is popular in many Anglo countries but it’s not a common custom in France. While it’s nice to get a hand-written card in the mail, I think many people just send them out because it’s considered a social faux-pas if you don’t. In the days of texting, Facebook, carrier pigeons, there’s clearly no need to send Christmas cards.

Because the French don’t send Holiday or Season’s greeting cards, sending Happy New Year cards is pretty stress free. You have the whole month of January to write a non-personal very brief card that will warm the heart the person who receives it. Typically, the card is written on a mignonette, on a greeting card or even sometimes on an old fashion ‘carte de visite’ – calling card.

Also, I think I read somewhere that since 1962, France has had a law that stipulates any letter to Santa must be responded to in the form of a postcard. This is a much better way for postmen to spend their time rather than delivering soulless Christmas cards!

20 thoughts on “Things about France that surprised me: the French don’t do cards

  1. No the French, like me do send New Year’s card Bonne Année to all family and friends , but yes not as much as others even less than the USA for greeting cards such as holidays, Christmas etc. We are very reserve here, like a Republique with Bourbon manners lol!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Right, and after I posted that I realized you are one of few who do, quite reliably and admirably. Just testing to see if you were paying attention. I gain weight just reading your delicious recipes! I’m not much of a baker or cook though. Anyway, respect and thanks, Sheree!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating cultural difference! Just had my bday and barely got any cards. I still send them. But not holiday cards… Too costly and many peooke don’t even share their mailing address anymore!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Belated happy birthday! Unfortunately, Facebook makes it all too easy to send digital wishes. I still send birthday cards and New Year cards but that’s it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Neil, I suspect that if you looked at these figures in terms of the ages of those doing the sending, the oldies would dominate. It’s a shame as there’s something rather nice about getting physical thank you notes and greetings/holiday cards.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The Brits send cards on holidays? This is the first time I heard about this. I’ve got a Vietnamese acquaintance living in the US, on his birthday, his colleagues sent him a bunch of cards. I thought that was because his colleagues were kind, I didn’t know it was a culture thing lol. 😂 I didn’t know that was a normal thing that you were supposed to do.

    We, Vietnamese definitely don’t do cards. Well, for me, I do make handmade cards for my mom on special occasions but that’s just personal preferences. I sometimes fantasizing about someone sending me a handwritten card too, but that has never happened. 🙂 But I guess if your culture expects you to send cards, that can be really stressful. I wouldn’t want to receive a card that the sender was forced to write.

    Vietnamese has a different custom though. On the Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year), we would gather at each other houses and give greetings and wishes. So yeah, instead of sending cards, you have to say it directly, face-to-face with a person, with a bunch of other people staring at you, curious about what kind of thing you came up with. Super stressful, I always messed up, I would much prefer to be writing a card. At least only the receiver will know what I wrote, unless they decided to share.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And imagine you have to come up with different wishes for everyone in that gathering, listening to you. A wish has to be at least 3 sentences long (that’s kind of the unwritten rule, too short and you’re rude). I’m seriously out of idea and I am already afraid of the next Lunar New Year, which is in February.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do try to put a different message on each one, in a number of different languages, to give it that personal touch. Though to be honest I don’t send many cards, generally no more than 30, decorated with my favourite photos from the year past.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I take thousands of photos each year, the tricky part is choosing just 8. Then cards are made up by a photo company using my photographs.


    2. It’s always so interesting to hear about customs in different countries. I still send handwritten thank you notes but only send physical birthday cards to my nearest and dearest. The rest get their’s courtesy of Facebook. I send out New Year’s cards rather than Xmas cards as I have a number of friends who don’t celebrate Xmas. I design these myself and they’re usually adorned with photos from our travels. Some, but not all, also receive a letter summarising our year.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That sounds really cool and unique by adding your own photos! ❤️ It must have taken you a lot of time, your friends must have really appreciate it. You pour your heart out into those cards.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Well how they miss out! Aren’t cards just the bestest things to receive and give? Just a piece of reinforced paper really but they make such a difference. It used to be more frequent, this custom of sending cards, when I was a child. In Calcutta, we used to buy cards for every occasion. My fondest memories are of looking forward to my uncle’s cards that arrived before my birthday every year without fail. It also thrilled me that he thought of us when he travelled and sent postcards with atmospheric missives. You are right about the Anglo touch. He lived in London. No wonder he was so particular about them. xx

    Liked by 1 person

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