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French Dinner Party Etiquette

Dinner etiquette varies from country to country.  So, before we are heading to a dinner party, it is good to be aware of some of the typical customs and traditions that surround the event, especially when we are in the food-loving country of France.

Recently, I have spoken with a few French friends of mine who have given me some tips about eating dinner at a French person’s house.  Here they are…

Ask the Host What to Bring

When you ask what to bring, the host may tell you to bring a wine, appetizer, or dessert.  If they tell you not to bring anything then you should bring flowers.  Bring something!  It is polite and, if you don’t, your host may feel like you are coming to a free restaurant.

Potluck Dinners

In France, there are potluck dinners where the host will ask everyone to bring a dish.  In these situations, it is not a big deal to ask for the guests participation in the dinner.

Appetizers

When the appetizers are out, you do not need to ask to start eating them. Just help yourself.

When to Start Eating

You should expect for the host to first serve the guests and then himself or herself.  At this time, wait until the host sits down and says “bon apetit” until you start eating.  If you are in a confusing situation and you are not sure what to do, a good rule of thumb is to not begin eating before the host does. 

Asking for Seconds

The host should offer you seconds.  It is a bit rude if they don’t, but maybe they just forgot.  However, if they do not ask, you can try and ask for seconds in a very gentle way.  For example, you could say “the food was really great!  Would you mind if i have a bit more?”

Finishing your Plate

It is always better to finish your plate.  If not, the host will worry that there is something wrong with his or her cooking.  If you really cannot eat anymore, apologize and the host will understand.  You can say something like “It was delicious, but I am sorry, I am so full that I can’t go on anymore.”

What Happens After Dinner

After dinner, if it is not too late, it is common to play games or watch a movie together.

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Knowing When to Leave

Here are a few guidelines to help you know when to leave:  If it gets quiet, then generally it is time to leave.  On Weekdays, try not to stay after 10:30 p.m. unless it’s a party night like Thursday.
On the weekend, 1 a.m. is usually a good time to go home.  The French are usually not out as late as their neighbors to the south.

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