We did a little poll to see what you'd like us to talk about and 'at home dining' came up with a resounding yes! Naturally, our French Food loving community would want to talk about it - it's a part of our UNESCO cultural heritage after all!
It's such a subject of interest that we are going to do something much more robust in the future - we are sure you can imagine that there are hundreds of formal intricacies- so until then, we have a pulled out a few little 'astuces' (tips). These will help you know what to expect when you are formally dining in France - and small preface that this is for REALLY formal dining, not an average dinner party :
- Bringing wine for a formal dinner is a bit of a no-no. The hosts would have already thought carefully about that they are serving and the appropriate wine to accompany.
- Bringing flowers is a nice gesture, but if you really want to be proper, send them during the afternoon. This is of course to avoid your host having to scramble around to find a vase and such.
- The table setting in France is a little different. You have example above. Tines up or down? Most etiquette rules will say 'down', unless of course there is a table cloth. You wouldn't dare want to leave marks in the table cloth from the tines of the fork!
- The seating plan in France is everything. Last time we told you to await the seating plan before running to the table (indeed the host will have carefully thought about where to seat people). The seating plan is a military operation with hundreds of rules and guidelines based on age, marriage, seniority, etc, even if slightly old fashioned. This is a book in itself. Just know if you end up at a formal dinner party, you have been carefully chosen!
You can expect : the hosts will likely sit across the table from one another - if the table is rectangle or oblong they will be in the center (versus dining à l'Anglaise, where you'll see the hosts at the extreme ends). The most important guest will be seated immediately to the right of the primary host, the next most important person to the left. If you are a couple married for less than one year you may be sat next to each other, if you are married for more than one year you will be sat apart.
- The end. Of course all good things come to end.. If they haven't in a timely fashion and you are in to the wee hours after the digestif, after the coffee and such, there is a special code, Should the host propose or bring out orange juice, it's a delicate way to say 'get your coat'
So enjoy your formal dining experience! And if you really want to look the part while you are there, there is a proper way to sit. According to one guide, you'll want to sit 'like you have a small mouse at your back, and a cat on your lap'... Voilà!
Enjoying a new culture is all about knowing how to navigate not only the city, but the people in it - so we continue on with our quick tips to help you avoid cultural gaffs, and make sure your Paris visit is a success!