Good manners are of primary importance in French culture, particularly in Paris. And what you consider to be good manners and proper etiquette at home might not be the same as what Parisians do, so read on to pick up some very important tips on interacting with the locals in Paris to present good manners, French etiquette at the table.

In Paris, being polite, formal and proper is the most socially acceptable way to be. It's considered common courtesy. Learning how to present this aspect of French etiquette is part of a successful Paris 'integration'.


Restaurant manners

1. Do not ask for a doggy bag (it's a no-no: you may get it but it is considered cheap and rude).

2. Don't try to order things you find only at home: ask for what people here eat or drink.

2. Here's a tip to avoid some embarrassing confusion. In France, a "restaurant" is for a whole meal. If you go to a restaurant, NEVER order just a salad and declare that you are not hungry for anything else! If you're not very hungry and just want a salad, a sandwich, or an omelette, head for a "brasserie". 

Dining Etiquette

1. If you are invited to a French house for dinner, if the host says 8, do not show up at 8 pm! (Actually, the custom is: 15 minutes after the announced time!) You don't have to arrive on time but under no circumstances should you arrive more than 15 minutes later. The further south you go in the country, the more flexible time is.

2. Do not dress TOO casually. Dress well. The French are fashion conscious and their version of casual is not as relaxed as in many western countries.

3. Except with very close friends (and even...), do not offer to bring one of the courses: you are invited (when you go to see a theatre play, you are not expected to go on stage and perform, are you ?)

4. Don't come empty handed. Buy flowers or chocolate for the host. If you are the host you have to display the flowers offered or share the chocolate with your invites at some point during the occasion. However, do NOT bring wine (except to close friends): your host has chosen the wine he considers the most appropriate and you will jeopardize his choice! Bring flowers or a box of chocolates. 

5. The before dinner drink ("apéritif") is generally long: do not drink (and do not eat) too much even if you're really enjoying them: it is only a appetizer! Remember a French meal includes five courses: first course, main course, salad, cheese, dessert.

6. Be ready for a LONG meal (especially on Christmas or New Year's Eve) and try to be open-minded if the food looks "unusual.": refusing a dish is considered rude, at least try it.

7. Do NOT offer to help (except with close friends, and even...)

8. Do NOT expect to visit the apartment and do not ask for it: this is a private domain!

9. You may be surprised to see the children at the table and astonished by how well they behave...

10. Talk lightly about many different subjects: literature, movies, history, politics, anything except money and the Stock Market! The French conversation is like a ping-pong game: the subjects jump....

11. Relax about table manners: your hosts will be understanding! But there are a few differences:  

Table manners

Let’s play a game of true and false!

1. Table manners are Continental - the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.

2. You can start eating as soon as the host serves your dish.
False. Do not begin eating until the hostess says 'bon appétit'.

French etiquette at the table

3. If you have not finished eating, the knife and fork are laid parallel to each other across the right side of the plate.
False. Cross your knife and fork on your plate with the fork over the knife.

4. Do not rest your elbows on the table, although your hands should be visible and not in your lap.

5. You should place your napkin in your lap immediately after being seated.
False. Once the lady of the house places her napkin in her lap, other guests should follow suit.

6. Your bread should go in your plate.
False. Bread is placed directly on the tablecloth, unless it is a formal meal in which bread plates are used.

7. When the aperitif is served, you wait for the host to give the toast before drinking.
True. You should wait for the host to lead the way, whether an aperitif or dinner course.

8. After each course, you should wipe your plate with a piece of bread.
True. However, this should be done gently as a means of cleaning the plate for the next course, not slopping up the leftover sauce. It is more polite to use a piece of bread on your fork, rather than in your hand. In a more formal setting, each course is served on a new plate, so cleaning the plate is not necessary.

9. When invited for apéros, you should bring a gift for the hostess.
False. For apéro, no gift is necessary. If you are invited for dinner, you should bring a gift for the hostess. Good ideas are flowers or a good bottle of wine.


I might have missed some so don't hesitate to share or comment ;-) Learn some more French etiquette during your French for Tourist program with Perth French Tutor!