Monday, July 1, 2013
Pariscope Vol 1: Dining Ettiquette in Paris
Cultural Etiquette for the Foreign Francophile!
Dining: How to dine with Parisians in a Paris home!
· The 15-minute rule - If you show up at the appointed hour, chances are you’ll end up waiting for your host to appear. If you’re much later than 15 minutes, you’ll probably score a dirty look or two.
· The emphasis is on dinner, not grazing appetizers - don't expect lots of appetizers. The French don’t like to ruin the appetite pre-dinner. Dinner is usually first course, main course, cheese platter and dessert.
· Eating bread - do not bite and do not slice bread with a knife. Instead tear/pulling pieces apart with your fingers and eating smaller bits. If butter is offered as it usually is, use your knife the spread the butter; do not swipe the bread across the butter.
· Fork in left hand - watch a French person eat and the fork is always in their left hand the entire time, not just when cutting food. It seems strange to the French to switch the fork to the right hand after we cut our food.
· Keep your hands in view - Not in your lap. As for elbows, some French keep them on the table some don’t. So just follow the lead of those you're with.
· Eating salad - do not cut your salad leaves into smaller pieces, instead use your fork (in your left hand, if you can) to fold the leaves into a small, bite-size portion.
· Soup rules - Soupspoons are used when there’s soup, and always tip the shallow soup bowl away from you when you’re finishing it. If you’re presented with a bowl that looks like a cup with handles, you may pick it up and drink the last remains and not be considered rude.
· Wine - Never pour your own wine—wait for your host or hostess or another delegate to refill your glass. The French are very good at drinking in moderation during long dinners; in other words, don’t overindulge if you’re attending a “proper” French dinner party. If you’re offered an apéritif before dinner, opt for champagne or white wine.
· Don’t ask your dinner partner what he or she does for a living. They’ll tell you sooner or later and if you’re French or understand the “social codes.”
· Don’t ask questions about income or salary—that’s considered ruder than rude.
· Don’t say you don’t like a particular food served to you. If you’re a vegetarian or have certain dietary restrictions, notify your host before the dinner and offer to bow out if accommodating your needs is awkward for the hostess.
· Don’t ask for a tour of the apartment. The French consider that an invasion of their personal space and whatever you do, never ask the cost of an apartment or home.
· Don’t serve cheese before dinner, should you ever entertain French guests. Cheese is served after the main course with or without salad.
· Dress code - Even if your host tells you to dress casually for an informal dinner in a French person’s home, don’t take them at their word and don’t arrive wearing anything less than you’d wear to a cocktail party unless you’re dining at a country home.
· Safe dinner discussion topics - You’ll never go wrong asking your hosts and their guests about recent vacations, their next vacation and what they’re currently reading. Those subjects are safe.
· Last words of advice - Take the hint about when it’s time to leave and do make a polite exit. If a tray of water and juice is passed, that’s a signal that it’s been a lovely evening.