The French take pride in a number of things viz. music, architecture, films, art, fashion, etc. Food is one such integral part of French culture which has evolved overtime, yet retained its originality & uniqueness. UNESCO’s inclusion of French cuisine to its list of world’s intangible cultural heritage, in 2010 was one such addition to its already popular nature.

Retrospectively speaking, the French cuisine developed extensively & received more recognition after the French revolution, not just in France, but also the other Francophone countries. As of today, Paris itself has more than 5000 restaurants, including several Michelin Star restaurants and chefs. The lunch time in France usually lasts for two hours, so one can imagine how much the French enjoy their meal time and savour their food.

If you happen to be on a business trip to France, apart from knowing the French Business Etiquettes, you’d better be up for 3-4 course or in the best cases, a 7 course meal of gastronomical delight, when invited for an authentic French-inspired meal. Here are some important table manners to keep in mind :-

  • The host gets the first preference to choose a seating place. When it comes to weddings, or business meetings, usually the French sit alternatively i.e. a man/a woman. In case of informal settings, men usually sit together & the same goes for women. If you are being hosted by a couple, then each of them would sit at either end of the table.
  • Meals are generally preceded with drinks. Let the host raise a toast, before you start sipping. The host usually is the one to say ‘a votre santé or ‘bon appetit’ first.
  • Hands must be kept on the table and not on your lap, but resting your elbows would be an impolite gesture.
  • Begin your meal only after everyone on the table has been served. Make sure you eat everything on your plate, as leaving out food may not go too well for you. The French eat slowly by enjoying every morsel of the food. You must keep this in mind even on days with extreme hunger pangs.
  • Going for seconds isn’t part of the usual scenario, unless the host asks you for another serving. Refilling for drinks or beverages is acceptable. Note that the glass should always be less than half-full, to get a refill.
  • Different etiquettes exist for the various kinds of food categories. It would be wise to briefly know about each, to avoid any follies.
  • As much as possible, avoid being late. During unexpected circumstances, it is polite to call the host and inform if you’re running more than 10 minutes late. The drinks aren’t served until the last person arrives. View it as responsibility or courtesy, the choice is yours.
  • The host usually pays if you’ve been invited out to a restaurant. If you invite a colleague out for a meal, it would be considered polite to pay.

Below is an image to help you visualize commonly used table setting for meals –

So much for having a meal, you think? Diversity can be challenging, but it’s the best way to learn about and appreciate novelty.