Is it always quiet in France or is it in fact a noisy country. We look at the rules and etiquette of France noise levels here at PumpjackPiddlewick

Something I’ve noticed and started to get used to is that it’s really quite quiet in France. That’s not to say there is not any noise. But the noise level here is certainly reduced. On many fronts. And maybe that is what lends itself to the ‘French lifestyle’?

Cities vs Country

Of course there is always a huge difference between city life and country. Cities lend themselves to noise. Any time you have quantities of people the volume is certain to raise itself. Not just in voice, but in mechanism too. More cars, trams, building works, footfalls, all add to the noise level. But even so, I have found that cities in France are actually relatively quiet.

However, shift your ears to the countryside, and this includes villages, and it is a whole different level. I am sat in my garden, in the centre of my village, and it is quiet. I can hear birds singing. And the odd quack from my ducks. And that is it. Very occasionally, a car passes by in the street below.

Weekdays are Quieter

Because the hours I work are not your typical M-F 9-5, I’ve noticed that weekdays are in fact quieter here. As of course a predominance of people are either at work or school, the mornings, afternoons and evenings are truly peaceful.

You can tell the time by the noise levels. Commuting times increase the sound of traffic. When I am working in the garden, the increase in car sounds at 12 and 2pm tell me when to take a break for lunch. (If I am so inclined.)

Hours of Quiet

There are actually laws and ‘arrêtés’ (stoppages) on noise levels in France. Excessive noise at night is actually breaking the law. And you will certainly notice that noise levels here truly drop come dark. In fact, one could say that the French roll up their sidewalks (an American saying) by 10pm. Sometimes as early as 8pm. Streets are deserted and shutters shut. And all goes quiet for the night.

Arrêtés are mandated by the local town hall or regional ‘prefecture’. So they can vary depending on where you live. (Although I have found them the same in each place I have lived.) These usually involve set hours of quiet. Or in reverse, hours when you can make noise. And by noise it is meant, lawn mowing, strimming, etc. All those mechanical noises one makes working on house, car or garden.

Typically it’s down noisy tool time from 12 to 14 (2pm). In other words, a peaceful lunch. And then again from 18 (6pm) until 8am. These times can vary depending on daylight and weekday versus weekend. Even Saturday versus Sunday. Sunday is a day dedicated to rest and family and/or friends, so the noise levels drop even more. With less hours allowed for making noise.

Animal Noises

There’s a vineyard I visit when guiding where the winemaker told me a story of ‘Parisians’. The pandemic created a spate of city dwellers (especially from Paris) buying into the countryside, or smaller villages. And with them came an increase in complaints of noise. Rather ironic, given cities are typically noisier. But the noise of tractors, and machines that cultivate and protect (such as wind turbines to keep frost at bay) the very crops they eat or drink are not noises city dwellers are used to.

Or farm animals that crow or call to the farmer to milk them in the early mornings. Complaints of this nature in France will fall on deaf ears (and regulations make certain of it). France is a rural country, with agriculture right up there in terms of its GDP. This includes personal use farm animals or plots. And with farming, whether livestock or vineyards, comes noise. So if you move to the countryside for some quiet, be aware it is a different quiet. (And sometimes not so quiet.)

I live in a small village and my ducks make noise. Especially call ducks, hence their name. Three houses up from me are neighbours that also have call ducks. And two neighbours down from me have chickens, and a cockerel. My immediate neighbours either side have dogs. Sometimes it can all get delightfully, rurally noisy. But most of the time, I could hear a pin drop. This is village life in France.

Speak Softly

The phrase ‘loud Americans’ is very much noticed here. But really it includes all English speakers, and even some other languages. (Yes, my Dutchy friends, I am looking at you.) The French speak softly. If you are visiting here, or even live here, take a moment to notice the level of conversation volume here in France. It is so amazingly low.

I do think the tonal qualities of French lend themselves to this quietness. As opposed to the more Teutonic languages (English, Dutch, German…). But it is also an awareness. Conversation is intimate, even when meeting a neighbour on a street corner. Heads are bowed towards each other and their is a natural restraint in the noise level. It’s a beauteous thing. And one I am trying to emulate, though not always succeeding. (Excitement in English lends itself to a volume increase.)

And hence why, if you are being loud, especially amongst a crowd, say in a restaurant in France, you may get looks of distaste thrown your way if you’re volume level is such that others can hear what you are saying. Conversations are not to be overheard, rather tête-à-tête, a private conversation, is the expectation.

More Musings

I think I may be slightly obsessed with the concept of quietness. Or at least peacefulness, for certain. I am definitely fascinated since moving to France and discovering a different view on quiet. Particularly as it is not an opinionated expectation of noise annoys me, rather an acceptance that there is a community level of quiet, and times to respect certain levels of quiet. So for more musings along these lines:

The flip side of the coin : Who Says the Countryside is Quiet!?!

Quiet Time – on autumn’s approach and quiet hobbies

Even Contemplating a Quiet Christmas

If you like my musings and insights on life in France, there is more in my French Findings.

And if you enjoy my musings, why not join in and Nourish Pumpjack & Piddlewick.

Or feel free to take a quiet browse of My Online Shops. Here’s a taste:

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2024-04-29

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