back to the fork

Tatyana MarkovtsevSo have you ever had a friend whose table manners were so bad that you wonder how they got to be your friend?

Hihi, just kidding, I’m sure that doesn’t happen often, but with the French, you can’t be too careful, no?

Table manners are very important, especially when you’re dining out and about in Paris!

Check out the article below for some great tips on how to keep your table manners impeccable, and watch the video for some French worth coming back to!

(This week: verb REVENIR – to come back)




This is the 5th episode of our series of articles regarding French manners and etiquette.

The French, like all people, share a number of codes and conventions that govern individual behavior in social life. These codes are called politeness, « savoir vivre », good manners or etiquette. These codes of behavior facilitate relationships between individuals, they help to create social harmony. They also define what is expected, allowed or prohibited in certain situations, dictate the obligations of each party to the social hierarchy, between men and women (gallantry) . Often, they also help “locate” an individual in relation to the standard: ignorance or knowledge of certain protocols in fact reveal a lack in education, or the contrary, qualities.

Does this cut your appetite?

The meal around the table with guests is a time where the quality of etiquette and politeness of each individual are tested extensively. The guests at the table are eating, but also speaking, observe and listen each other over a period of time which can often last more than two hours.

It is usually the hostess who assigns the place of the guests at the table, therefore you must wait until she tells you your place. In general, if you are a man, you will be placed between two women, as the hostess wants to alternate the guests of each sex. Men normally have the duty to care for their neighbor and to make conversation with her.

The napkin found on your plate will be placed half unfolded on his knees (not around the neck!), and hands (not the elbows!) will be placed on the table, each side of the cutlery. The knives and the spoon for soup can be found to the right of the plate, while the forks are at the left. It is common for three glasses to be placed in front of the plate: the largest is for water, the smallest for white wine, and the medium sized glass is for red wine. The bread is placed in a basket close by, but it is forbidden to “nibble” before the first dish (you can do it at the restaurant though). We do not drink before eating and it is the hostess who invites guests to start.

The guests generally serve themselves by passing the dishes. Men offer to serve the women with food, as well as to fill up their glasses. If you think you’ve had enough to drink, leave your glass full – you will not receive more! When you drink, do not forget to wipe your lips before drinking, in order keep your glass clear throughout the meal. Wipe your lips after it as well, if possible, by holding your towel with both hands. If the hostess asks you to take more food, it is polite to refuse the first time, for not giving the impression that you are a big eater. Wait until she asks you again, to accept.

However, if you do not like a dish, try to eat a little anyway, to not offend your hosts. Finally, the habit of leaving a little something on the plate to show that you are not a big eater is actually rarely appreciated: rather the guests feel that if you do not finish your meal might offend the hosts and especially your hostess, who spent time choosing and preparing the food.

The rules of etiquette at the table are many, here are some things primarily prohibited: you do not talk with your mouth full, you close the mouth while eating; you don’t blow on the soup to cool it down; you don’t cut your salad with a knife, nor the omelette or the pasta. Potatoes should not be mashed, but separated with the side of the fork. We “push” the meat, the vegetables on a fork with a piece of bread, not with the knife. You never take a fishbone with your fingers, you leave it with your lips on the fork and then place it on the side of the plate. It is normally rude to take the sauce from your plate with bread, « saucer », but the temptation is great and everyone is quietly doing it! We don’t mash the cheese on the bread, we eat it piece by piece. You don’t cut the bread with a knife, you “break” it with your hands.

When finished, we put our cutlery (fork and knife) on our plate without crossing the tip of the fork facing down. The use of toothpicks is strictly prohibited, you won’t find them on the table.

When the hostess gives the signal, the guests can leave the table, they then lay their napkins (not folded) near their plate, while they leave their chair.

Too many rules?
Do you feel like you’d need to have a cheat sheet for these rules alone?

Interesting how these rules become second nature after just practicing them only a couple of times. What better way to practice than by making friends and getting invited to one of these lovely events?

Next step:

learn French and make friends – I’ll bet you’ll teach everyone around the subtleties of the table etiquette.

(Inspired from


Immerse yourself as you FINALLY reach your dream of becoming bilingual, learn to speak Parisian French and BREAK your language barrier!


Now it is your turn!

Tell us in the comments below, which habit you’d never remember or you fear you’d forget?


Want to learn French to enjoy Paris?
Create a solid foundation for conversation,
master pronunciation, and travel the World,
using the comprehensive J’Ouellette® Intensif

…and now Please Share this post with your friends. They’ll love you for it! 🙂

Drop me a line and I’ll show you how I can help you – with your challenges, your level and your goals – to rapidly expand your vocab so that you can attend that client meeting, even if it’s scheduled for next week, and impress them by speaking their native language!


À la prochaine,




Photo credit: Tatyana Markovtsev, A.G. photographe

5. Are you French-manners ready? (back to the fork)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *