Dining Etiquette in France
If you’re traveling to France for a business meeting that will take place during a meal, it’s a wise idea to acquaint yourself with French dining etiquette before you even leave home. As is the case in many countries, food etiquette in France may differ slightly or greatly from what’s the norm in your home country, so it’s advisable to be prepared to avoid offending the people who’ll join you in your meeting.
The Basics of Dining Etiquette in France
Dining etiquette in France is somewhat dependent upon where you’re going to break bread with your peers. If you’re going to eat in someone’s home, think of the meeting as a formal play that you’re participating in. Once your host invites you to the table, sit where instructed and plan to stay there until the end of the meal.
As far as French food etiquette goes, separating yourself from the dining party and leaving the table after you’re seated are frowned upon. If you’re going to share a meal with your contemporaries in an eatery such as a bistro, it’s advisable to follow the lead of your dining companions. Don’t bring up business matters until your French associates do.
While the whole point of you traveling to France may be to conduct business during the meal, initiating a business conversation at the table may be offensive to the individuals you’re eating with.
The Do's of Dining Etiquette in France
While certain things may vary slightly depending on where you’re eating, others are a given no matter what setting you dine in. Before you dive into your food, you should wait for your host to say, “Bon appetit!” If you’re compelled to offer a toast in return, “Salud” or “Votre sante” mean “to your health” and are safe choices.
When choosing your utensils, start on the outside and work your way in per course. If bread is served, break a small piece by hand. If your plate setting doesn’t include a bread plate, place your bread on the table on the left-hand side of your main plate. As you’re cutting your food or eating, hold your knife in your right hand and your fork in your left. If you’re not holding your utensils, keep your hands above the table where your companions can see them. When you’re done with your meal, place your knife and fork parallel to each other on the right side of your plate.
The Don'ts of Dining Etiquette in France
Just as you shouldn’t initiate a business conversation at the table, you shouldn’t assume that you’ll sit in a certain place. If no place cards are on the table, wait for your host to tell you where to sit. If your party is going from one room to another to be seated for a meal, don’t cut in front of the more senior people in your group.
Instead, you should let them enter the room before you do. Women should also be allowed to enter a room before their male counterparts. While you’ll always be welcome to have refills for your drinks, things are different when it comes to food. French dining etiquette dictates that you should eat everything served on your plate, but it prevents you from asking for a second helping.
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