Nice, France’s fifth-largest city, boasts fashionable boutiques and restaurants and a relaxed pace that makes for easy living. The brilliant white houses, the region’s vibrant colors and the sparkling blue waters of the Côte d'Azur have, over the years, prompted some of the most celebrated artists, such as Renoir, Matisse and Chagall, to set down their roots in this cosmopolitan Riviera ville.
When it comes to the outdoor life, it doesn’t get much better than Nice. The calm waters of the Bay of Angels are perfect for young families and water sports enthusiasts. The ski pistes, within an hour’s drive, provide an Alpine playground for young and old.
Traffic can get congested around town, however, the mayor of Nice recently introduced a hire-by-the hour-electric cars and pushbikes scheme, which could one day make traffic jams and pollution a thing of the past.
What is special or unique about your city?
The French Riviera is unique in many ways, with its climate, natural beauty, history, culture and its leisure activities. All these factors have drawn many people to its shores and it is now the home to over 163 nationalities. It has a wonderful mild climate with 300 days of sunshine per year and an annual daily temperature of 18° C. It is full of history and charm with its perched medieval villages, such as Biot, Mougins and Saint Paul de Vence. Its beauty has also attracted many artists in the past, including Pablo Picasso.
Its geographical location is fantastic. It is next to Italy and Monaco with all the new cultural experiences these places have to offer. The area is famous for leisure ports, such as Cannes and Antibes, which berth some of the biggest and most beautiful private yachts in the world. It is also the host of the Cannes Film Festival every year, attracting famous movie stars, and the Formula One Grand Prix in Monaco. Enough diversity to satisfy anyone!
For those who are searching for a quieter environment than the busy coast, the Arriere Pays Nicois is perfect. It is slightly further inland, up in the hills with woods, and in certain areas, some spectacular views.
Nice is the largest city on the Riviera (known as the Côte d'Azur in France) and the capital of the Alpes Maritimes.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
Newcomers tend to find the area very beautiful, and feel like they are on an extended holiday living here. There are so many different places to visit or live that there is always something to please everyone. Many take up new sports that are typical of the area such as biking, hiking, diving, skiing and sailing. On the downside, they may find the French system very slow when it comes to paperwork, as they always need an extensive list of official papers from you before anything can be done.
Are these impressions likely to change?
It’s unlikely that anyone living in this area will ever tire of its beauty and the variety of things it has to offer. However, the traffic can get very busy along the coastal roads especially during the busy summer period with many more tourists, so traffic jams are frequent. Also, driving and parking can be challenging, as many of these old towns and villages were not built with cars in mind, so buying a smaller car is essential for city/town driving.
What is the local language?
French is the official language, but many people know and speak English as a second language.
Here are a few words and phrases in French that may help you in case you come in contact with a local who does not speak English:
Goodbye: Au Revoir
Good morning: Bonjour
Good night: Bonne nuit
Thank you: Merci
You’re welcome: De rien
My name is… Je m’appelle
How much? Combien ?
How do I get to…? Comment faire j'obtiens à...?
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
If you are an English speaker, you should have no problem. English is widely spoken or at least understood, particularly by the younger generations, because English is taught as a second language in high schools. Furthermore, the Riviera hosts a large and diverse expat community, which means that there are probably opportunities to speak your native language if it is something other than English.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
Mainly, as in anywhere else in the world, be courteous and respectful of others. French people value politeness and diplomacy. Most French people are sociable and pleasant, particularly if they are approached with a friendly smile and a polite "bonjour,” but they are also known for their impatience so be prepared for that eventuality.
Here are some additional tips on etiquette and customs in France:
- The handshake is a common form of greeting.
- Friends may greet each other by lightly kissing on the cheeks, once on the left cheek and once on the right cheek.
- First names are reserved for family and close friends. Wait until invited before using someone's first name.
- You are expected to say "bonjour" or "bonsoir" (good morning and good evening) with the honorific title Monsieur or Madame when entering a shop and "au revoir" (goodbye) when leaving.
- If you live in an apartment building, it is polite to greet your neighbors with the same appellation.
- Flowers should be given in odd numbers but not 13, which is considered unlucky.
- Some older French retain old-style prohibitions against receiving certain flowers: white lilies or chrysanthemums as they are used at funerals; red carnations as they symbolize bad will; any white flowers as they are used at weddings.
- Prohibitions about flowers are not generally followed by the young. When in doubt, it is always best to err on the conservative side.
- If you give wine, make sure it is of the highest quality you can afford. The French appreciate their wines.
- Gifts are usually opened when received.
If you are invited to a French home for dinner:
- Arrive on time. Under no circumstances should you arrive more than 10 minutes later than invited without telephoning to explain you have been detained.
- The further south you go in the country, the more flexible expectations are about arriving on time.
- If invited to a large dinner party, especially in Paris, send flowers the morning of the occasion so that they may be displayed that evening.
- Dress well. The French are fashion conscious and their version of casual is not as relaxed as in many western countries.
- Table manners are Continental: the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
- If there is a seating plan, you may be directed to a particular seat.
- Do not begin eating until the hostess says "bon appetit"
- If you have not finished eating, cross your knife and fork on your plate with the fork over the knife.
- If you have finished eating, place both the knife and fork together across your plate, from the right-hand side
- Do not rest your elbows on the table, although your hands should be visible and not in your lap.
- Do not cut salad with a knife and fork. Fold the lettuce onto your fork.
- Leave your wineglass nearly full if you do not want more.
- The French tend to speak at a closer distance than some other cultures. Backing away when someone is talking to you is considered rude
- Chewing gum in public is seen as vulgar
- Slapping an open palm over a closed fist or snapping your fingers is offensive and obscene.
- Yawning in public or patting someone on the back is considered rude and unacceptable.
- Do not put your hands in your pockets when in public.
- Eating while walking down the street is frowned upon although you will still see people doing this.
- The "O.K." sign (forming a circle with the thumb and forefinger) means "zero" or "useless" in France.
- Women acquaintances greet each other with alternating kisses on the cheeks. And it's common for men to embrace, so don't be surprised.
- Talking with your hands in your pockets is perceived as a sign of bad manners.
- Blowing your nose in public is also considered unacceptable.
- Today, the courtesy title "Mademoiselle" is rarely used and should be avoided.
- For casual contacts such as waiters, titles such as "Monsieur" or "Madame" will do fine. When entering a store or restaurant, you may say "bonjour" or "bonsoir", and "au revoir" upon leaving.
- When you speak their language, be gracious if the French correct your mistakes in grammar or pronunciation.
- It is highly recommended that you learn some basic French and use it whenever you can.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
The weather is generally very mild on the French Riviera, but that also depends on where you live.
Along the coast it is usually windier, but warmer; inland in the hills (Arriére Pays Niçois), it can be cooler. The summers are mostly always sunny and hot, but in the winter there can be a lot of rain (and in this area when it rains, it pours!), some ice and even occasionally some snow, but it never stays very long.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
The French Riviera is a very cosmopolitan area, attracting foreigners from all over the world for work or tourism. Everywhere you go, not only will you hear French, but you will also hear people speaking other languages, such as English, Dutch and Russian. The whole area is always buzzing with life, even in the winter months when there are fewer tourists. This is also due to its high student population and the high-tech industries found in Sophia Antipolis.
The French Riviera is right next to Monaco and Italy, which adds to its charm and international flare, and also has a couple of islands just off its coast near Cannes that can be visited: les Iles de Lerins, or the Lerins Islands, which include Ile Sainte Marguerite and Ile Saint Honorat.
The coast is dotted with beautiful old fishing villages whose houses are painted in various soft ochre and yellow colors. Up on the hills, there are other old villages—some medieval, such as Mougins, Biot and Valbonne— beautiful places where history collides gracefully with the modern world.