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Etiquette in France

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Although American-style food is making inroads in France, luckily French culinary tradition is still vital and treasured all over the country. Every region in France boasts its own special dish, cheese and wine. France is world-renowned for its more than 400 types of cheese. The low rate of heart disease in France is usually ascribed to the high consumption of the delicious local wines. French people usually eat three meals a day – breakfast, in the morning, lunch at about 12pm or 1pm and dinner at about 8pm. The French, apart from wine, also drink a lot of bottled water (although their tap water is usually good for drinking). French eating etiquette is an important at home, at private and public celebrations and especially in restaurants and cafes. It is more like а series of lifestyle rules than an imposed series of clichés to abide while dining.

French dining etiquette
When in France, you will demonstrate a serious lack of respect if you violate the eating rules. Table manners are definitely very important for foreigners to master. Never take flowers to the hostess because you are expected to send them before or after the event. You are not allowed to bring any friends or pets without asking first. However, if you happen to bring an extra person, you should give his/her name to the host. In France, the only two kinds of food that a guest is allowed to refuse are oysters and curry. The hostess should not serve them without inquiring beforehand about the guests’ tastes. Dinner usually takes from two to four hours because one meal consists of several courses served separately. Guests should eat small portions of every course. Each course is brought in order and passed but one thing stays present on the table throughout the whole meal-the inevitable glass of French wine. You should leave your wineglass nearly full if you do not want more wine.

French table manners
The French have perfected the art of using forks and knives. Chicken and fish are cut and picked up by a special kind of table utensils. The French go so far as eating fruit with knives and forks. Salad should never be cut, you should rather try to fold the leaf and bring it to your mouth with the fork. Salad knife is present on the table but using it should be your last resort. Cheese is cut lengthwise and round cheese is cut by means of making round wedges. Do not rest your elbows on the table. Your hands should be visible but not on your lap. If you have not finished eating, cross your fork and knife on the plate with the fork over the knife. The French hate to have unexpected visitors so it is considered a blunder to drop in on a friend without letting them know in advance. You should avoid phoning after 9pm and before 10am. A firmly established tradition, is the L’Aperitiff – people get together at about half an hour before a meal to share a drink have a chat with friends, family, colleagues or neighbours.

Dress etiquette 
When in France, you should dress with care. The French are fashion-conscious people and their idea for casual is not as relaxed as in many western countries. The French like the fine things in life, so they usually wear good quality accessories. This demonstrates their meticulous attention to detail. Men should wear dark-coloured conservative suits to make a good impression. Women should wear either stylish suits or elegant dresses in soft colours. Their clothes should be elegant and classy, no cleavages or upper thigh exposing. See-through and too revealing clothes are a sign of bad taste. However, backless long dresses and elegant blazers are considered classy. Quality fabrics are always to the French liking. The French little black dress is an icon on cocktail parties. The shoes should be discreet-looking. The generally accepted dress-code in France looks down on sneakers.

Country etiquette 
If invited to a large dinner party, especially in Paris, you are expected to arrive a quarter of an hour later than the announced time. The further south you go in the country, the more flexible the approach to time becomes. If you are visiting rural areas or smaller cities, speaking basic French is crucial. People in the country consider it rude to address them in English.

Remember: ten things you must and ten things you mustn’t do when dining in France


1. If the host has invited you to dinner at 8, it is considered polite to show up 15 minutes after the announced time.

2. Bring a small gift to the host, preferably a box of chocolates.

3. Send flowers before or after the party.

4. At the end of the party, the host will offer orange juice or something of the kind. This means you do have to leave because the party is over.

5. Be ready for a long meal. Traditional French meals include first course, main course, salad, cheese, dessert.

6. It is obligatory to cover your mouth when yawning at the table and to do it soundlessly.

7. Good manners in France decree that your hands but not your arms should be on the table.

8. You cut your meat by holding the knife in your right hand while securing the food with your fork in your left hand. The pieces of food should be picked up with the fork still in the left hand.

9. Should you need to leave the table but you are planning to return to finish your meal, leave the napkin on your chair, and not on the table.

10. At the end of the meal when you are planning to leave, you should fold the napkin gently and put it on the table as a sign that you have finished completely .


1. Do not dress too casually for a meal in a French restaurant.

2. Never use the side of a fork to section off a bite-size piece when having the dessert. Classy restaurants offer a special dessert knife and fork depending on the type of the dessert.

3. Under no circumstances should you cut all your meal at once. This could only be done for a small child who cannot use the knife yet.

4. Never ask a chef in a French restaurant for ketchup – it means you don’t like the food.

5. Avoid talking about two topics - money and food recipes at the table.

6. If you do bring something to your host, never bring wine. The host is the one who provides the wine of his choice.

7. Do not serve yourself wine.

8. Looking ostentatiously at the bottle label is considered very rude.

9. Do not cut bread. You are supposed to break it.

10. Do not leave food on your plate because this means you didn't like the meal.

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