Whether your vacation is in Paris, also known as The City of Lights, or somewhere in the gorgeous south of France, these etiquette tips will put you in good stead throughout your stay in France.
- It is common for salespeople, servers, or others in the service industry to subtly dismiss patrons for having poor etiquette or manners.
- At a service counter, you are expected to greet the service provider with a brief “bonjour” which means “hello”. This greeting applies even if you are in a rush.
- It is rude to sit with one’s legs spread apart unless it is in a relaxed environment. Otherwise, sit straight with your legs crossed at the knee or knees together.
- Never place feet on tables or chairs.
- If someone is invited to a restaurant, it is acceptable to arrive at the specific time.
- When one is invited for a meal at someone’s house, one is not expected to arrive “à l’heure” which means “on time”. It is best to arrive about 15 to 20 minutes after the set arrival time.
- The French people consider it rude to visit unannounced or uninvited.
- When invited to a dinner, it is common courtesy for guests to ask their host(s)/hostess(es) if they would like for them to bring something that would complement the evening.
- If your host does not have a preference, guests may also bring a bottle of wine or dessert.
- It is an honor to be invited into someone’s home as the French people are quite reserved about the practice.
- Guests are expected to dress well.
- It is viewed as rude if you do not greet everyone when arriving and leaving, regardless of how many people are present.
Table manners are highly regarded in France. Thus, there are a number of practices one should observe when with a French peer:
- You are expected to pass dishes around and to hold a dish so your neighbor can retrieve some of the meal.
- When one begins a meal, they typically say “bon appétit” which means “enjoy your meal”s.
- Dinner guests should not open their mouths or talk while eating. Instead, one should gently wipe their mouth after taking a drink.
- When someone finishes their meal, the fork and knife are placed side by side on the plate on the right or in the center of the plate.
- At a restaurant, generally guests are not expected to share the bill.
- There are three main meals throughout the day: “le petit déjeuner” (“breakfast”), “le déjeuner” (“lunch”) and “le dîner” (“dinner”). The largest meal of the day is dinner.
- Meals, especially le dîner, are comprised of different courses consisting of three courses: hors d’eouvre (introductory course), the main course, and a cheese or dessert course.
- Another common type of meal enjoyed is known as the “apéro” (also known as ‘l’apéritif’), which is a pre-dinner drink with finger foods and filled with conversations. The length of time varies from a short 30 minute meal to a 3 hour fête. If you are invited to an apéro, it is best to bring something gourmet, instead of a generic item. Additionally, the last piece of food at an apéro is usually left for some time until someone politely asks the others if they may eat it.
- Wine plays an important role the French dining experience. It is often served with meals, and people tend to comment on the flavors and quality of the wine they are drinking. Typically, one begins by aerating and breathing the wine, then taking a sip and tasting the flavors for a few seconds before swallowing. Practices relating to wine become more important the higher the quality of the wine. Finally, if you do not want any more wine, leave your current glass mostly full to indicate this to your host or hostess. Failing to respect wine-related etiquette is lacking considered by the French as lacking manners.
- It is generally frowned upon to leave food on a plate, particularly when in someone’s home. Each course of a meal tends to take time to make. Thus, one shows appreciation for the efforts of the person who prepared the meal through the enjoyment and completion of the meal.