French Culture


Basic Etiquette

  • It is common to find people being subtly dismissed by salespeople, waiters or others in the service industry for having poor etiquette or manners. 
  • At a service counter, you are expected to greet the service provider with a brief ‘bonjour’ (‘hello’), even if you are in a rush.
  • It is rude to sit with one’s legs spread apart unless in a relaxed context. Rather, sit straight with your legs crossed at the knee or knees together.
  • Feet should not be placed on tables or chairs.
  • If someone is invited to a restaurant or a business function, it is acceptable to arrive at the specific time. However, when invited for a meal at someone’s house, one is expected not to arrive à l’heure (on time). It is best to arrive about 15 to 20 minutes after the set time.



  • French people tend not to visit unannounced or uninvited. To do so is considered rude.
  • When invited to a dinner, it is common for guests to ask their hosts if they are required to bring something on the day. Guests may also bring a bottle of wine or dessert.
  • Some French are quite reserved about inviting new people into their homes. An invitation is considered an honour. 
  • Guests are usually expected to dress well.
  • It is seen as rude if you do not greet everyone when arriving and leaving, regardless of how many people are present.


  • Table manners are highly regarded in France. Thus, there are a number of practices one should observe when with a French counterpart.
  • You are expected to pass dishes around and to hold a dish so your neighbour can retrieve some of the meal.
  • When one begins a meal, they typically say “bon appétit” (enjoy your meal).
  • Dinner guests should not open their mouth or talk when eating, and should gently wipe their mouth after taking a drink.
  • When someone finishes their meal, the fork and knife are placed side by side on the plate on the right or in the centre of the plate.
  • At a restaurant, guests are generally not expected to share the bill.
  • There are three main meals throughout the day: le petit déjeuner (breakfast), le déjeuner (lunch) and le dîner (dinner). The largest meal of the day is dinner, and is often eaten with the family.
  • Meals comprise different courses, typically an entrée, main, some cheese, and dessert. The French take their time eating each course of their meal.
  • Another common type of meal enjoyed is known as the ‘apéro’ (also known as ‘l’apéritif’), which is a pre-dinner drink with finger foods and filled with conversations. The length of time varies from a short 30 minute meal to a 3 hour affair. If you are invited to an apéro, it is best to bring something gourmet (rather than a bag of chips/crisps). For example, tapenade, olives, fresh bread, or cheese would be appropriate. Additionally, the last piece of food at an apéro is usually left for some time until someone politely asks others if they may eat it.
  • Wine plays an important role in French cuisine. It is often served with meals, and people tend to comment on the flavours and quality of the wine they are drinking. Typically, one begins by smelling the wine, then taking a sip and tasting the flavours for a few seconds before swallowing. Practices relating to wine become more important the higher the quality of the wine. Finally, if you do not want any more wine, leave your current glass mostly full to indicate this to your host. Failing to respect wine-related etiquette is viewed as lacking manners.
  • It is generally frowned upon to leave food on a plate, particularly when in someone’s home. Each course of a meal tends to take time to make. Thus, one shows appreciation for the efforts of the person cooking through the enjoyment and completion of the meal. 

Gift Giving

  • When invited to someone’s home, try to bring a small, good-quality gift for the host. Usually one will bring a bottle of wine. Everyone will put the bottles of wine on the table and will freely drink what they choose.
  • If you give wine, ensure it is of the highest quality you can offer. French people appreciate their wines.
  • Gifts are usually opened when received.

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