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French Etiquette, why table manners rule our life - L'étiquette à la française, pourquoi les règles de la table régissent notre vie

By 2:19 PM , , ,

Why am I speaking about politeness and good manners ? 

All my travels and living with a foreigner made me realize that those rules are THE RULES to follow.
It's so important for us french, that it became a second nature. We don't understand that other people can be so rude. Simply, they are just not aware of the unspoken rules. We had H, A, T and D over for lunch this week-end. I realized that they knew perfectly the unspoken french rules! Well done foreigners :)

Don't take it badly or personally, it's just that ETIQUETTE is learned around the world. And for us, French, it's part of our culture and education. Parents value that more than anything. If you're polite, you're the perfect little girl or boy. So if you live, visit or just have a dinner with a French person, please, be aware of the unspoken rules !!!

For my french friends, everyone had this reaction when meeting a little one who came to ask you something and saying please or thanks. The reaction was to congratulate the little one on his good education. 
Last week, we went to have dinner at N's parents. Little L was there. Such a cute boy !!! He asked Stefan for a biscuit and look at him with his big blue eyes saying "Perci!"(he cannot say merci correctly that makes it even cuter). My reaction was to applaud him and to tell him it was so good of him to say thanks. He is not even 2 and the first thing he learned he is saying thank you, please and excuse me. Such a french thing to do. He cannot speak correctly, doesn't know all the animals' name, cannot say his own name, but he says "thanks". 

Maybe this example will enlighten you on the importance of etiquette. 

I found on google more than 24,900,000 (in 0,30 sec) on French Etiquette... So I'm not the only one putting value on these silent rules. So here after, some tips for you. I don't even speak about how to cut your cheese's rules (my friends M and T will remember my scream when Roquefort was badly cut). 
Those are basics  !!!! 

But please, friends and non-readers don't take it personal. It is just an enlightenment on the complexity of the French. Most of the times, you are more than perfect. 
Pourquoi est-ce que je parlerais de politesse et de bonnes manières ? 

Tous mes voyages et le fait de vivre avec un étranger m'ont fait réaliser que ces règles sont LES RÈGLES à suivre.
C'est si important pour nous,  français, que c’en est devenu une deuxième nature. Nous ne comprenons pas que les autres puissent être si grossiers. Simplement, ils ne sont pas conscients de ces règles non-dites. Nous avions H, A, T et D pour le déjeuner ce week-end. Je me suis rendue compte qu'ils connaissaient parfaitement les règles françaises inexprimées! Bien joué les étrangers :)

Ne le prenez pas mal ou personnellement, c’est juste que l'ÉTIQUETTE est enseignée dans le monde entier. Et pour nous, Français, cela fait partie de notre culture et éducation. Les parents l'estiment plus que tout. Si vous êtes polis, vous êtes la petite fille ou le petit garçon parfait. Donc si vous vivez, visitez ou avez juste un dîner avec une personne française, svp, soyez conscients des règles inexprimées!!!

Pour mes amis français, tout le monde a eu cette réaction en rencontrant un petit qui est venu pour vous demander quelque chose et qui a dit s’il vous plait et merci. La réaction fut de le féliciter sur sa bonne éducation. 
La semaine dernière, nous sommes allés dîner chez les parents de N. Petit L était là. Un garçon si mignon!!! Il a demandé à Stefan un biscuit et l’a regardé avec ses grands yeux bleus en disant "Perci!" (Il ne peut pas dire merci correctement ce qui le rend encore plus mignon). Ma réaction fut de l’applaudir et de lui dire que c'était très bien de dire merci. Il n’a même pas 2 ans et la première chose qu'il a apprise c’est de dire merci, s’il vous plait et pardon. Des choses si françaises à faire. Il ne peut pas parler correctement, ne connait pas le nom de tous les animaux, ne peut pas dire son propre nom, mais il dit "Perci". 

Peut-être cet exemple vous éclairera sur l'importance de l’étiquette. 

J'ai trouvé sur Google plus de 24,900,000 pages (en 0,30 seconde) sur l'Étiquette française... Donc je ne suis pas la seule mettant de la valeur sur ces règles silencieuses. Ainsi ci-après, quelques astuces pour les étrangers (les français, honte à vous si vous ne les connaissez pas). Ce sont des règles simples. Je ne parle même pas des règles pour couper le fromage (mes amis M et T se rappelleront de mon cri perçant quand Roquefort a été mal coupé). 
Celles-ci sont l'essentiel!!!! 

Mais svp, mes amis et mes non-lecteurs ne le prenaient pas personnellement. C'est juste un éclaircissement sur la complexité du Français. La plupart du temps, vous êtes plus que parfait.



The People
  • The French adhere to a strong and homogeneous set of values. They cherish their culture, history, language and cuisine, which is considered an art. The French have been and are today world leaders in fashion, food, wine, art and architecture. They embrace novelty, new ideas and manners with enthusiasm as long as they are elegant.

Meeting and Greeting
  • At a business or social meeting, shake hands with everyone present when arriving and leaving. A handshake may be quick with a light grip.
  • Men may initiate handshakes with women.
  • When family and close friends greet one another, they often kiss both cheeks.

Names and Titles
  • Use last names and appropriate titles until specifically invited by your French host or colleagues to use their first names. First names are used only for close friends and family.
  • Colleagues on the same level generally use first names in private but always last names in public.
  • Address people as Monsieur, Madame or Mademoiselle without adding the surname.
  • Madame is used for all adult women, married or single, over 18 years of age (except for waitresses, which are addressed as Mademoiselle.)
  • Academic titles and degrees are very important. You are expected to know them and use them properly.

Body Language
  • Do not sit with legs spread apart. Sit up straight with legs crossed at knee or knees together. Feet should never placed on tables or chairs.
  • Toothpicks, nail clippers, and combs are not used in public.
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets.
  • Do not yawn or scratch in public. Sneeze or blow your nose as quietly as possible using a handkerchief or tissue. If possible, leave the room.
  • Do not slap your open palm over a closed fist (this is considered a vulgar gesture).
  • The "okay" sign, made with index finger and thumb, means "zero."
  • The French use the "thumbs up" sign to say "okay."

Dining and Entertainment
  • Do not ask for a martini or scotch before dinner -- they are viewed as palate numbing.
  • Before dinner, pernod, kir, champagne, vermouth may be offered. Wine is always served with meals. After dinner, liqueurs are served.
  • Business breakfasts are rare.
  • Senior managers socialize only with those of equivalent status.
  • Business entertainment is done mostly in restaurants.
  • Lunch is still considered a private time. However, working lunches and breakfasts are becoming more common in France.
  • The French do not like to discuss business during dinner. Dinner is more of a social occasion and a time to enjoy good food, wine and discussion.
  • Spouses are not included in business lunches, but may be included in business dinners.
  • A female guest of honor is seated to the right of the host. A male guest of honor is seated to the left of the hostess.
  • Never start eating until your host and hostess have begun. Wait until toast has been proposed before you drink wine.
  • Keep your hands on the table at all times during a meal — not in your lap. However, take care to keep your elbows off the table.
  • Fold your salad onto your fork by using your knife. Do not cut your salad with a knife or fork.
  • Never cut bread. Break bread with your fingers.
  • There usually are no bread/butter plates. Put bread on the table next to your dinner plate above your fork.
  • Cut cheese vertically. Do not cut off the point of cheese.
  • Almost all food is cut with a fork and a knife.
  • Never eat fruit whole. Fruit should be peeled and sliced before eating.
  • When finished eating, place knife and fork side by side on the plate at the 5:25 position.
  • Cross your knife and fork across your plate to signify that you would like more food.
  • Do not smoke between courses.
  • Leave wine glass almost full if you don't care for more.
  • Taste everything offered.
  • Leaving food on your plate is impolite.
  • Do not ask for a tour of your host's home, it would be considered impolite.
  • Send a thank-you note or telephone the next day to thank hostess.

  • The French are the world leaders in fashion. Dress conservative and understated. Casual attire is inappropriate in cities. Be clean and well-dressed at all times.
  • For business, men should wear conservative suits and ties; women should wear conservative suits, pant suits and dresses (less and less applied, but still frequent)
  • Suit coats stay on in offices and restaurants.

  • Small business gifts may be exchanged, but usually not at the first meeting.
  • Never send a gift for a French colleague to his/her home.
  • Give a good quality gift or none at all. Give: recorded music, art, books, office accessories.
  • Do not give gifts with your company logo stamped on them (the French consider this garish).
  • When invited to someone's home, always bring a small gift for the hostess. If possible, send flowers the morning of the party (popular in Paris). Otherwise, present a gift to the hostess upon arrival. A gift to the hostess will probably not be unwrapped immediately (unless no other guests are present or expected).
  • Give candy, cookies, cakes and flowers. Do not give gifts of 6 or 12 (for lovers); gifts of odd numbers, especially 13; chrysanthemums or red roses; or wine unless it is exceptional quality.
  • A gift should be of high quality and wrapped beautifully.

Helpful Hints
  • Lower your voice a little and behave graciously and you will enjoy a warm response from the French. (especially for our northern american friends)
  • The French value their privacy. Don’t ask personal questions related to occupation, salary, age, family or children unless you have a well-established friendship.
  • Try to demonstrate some knowledge of history, politics and French culture.
  • Compliments may be appreciated, but usually are received by denial instead of "thank you."
  • Do not chew gum in public.
  • The French do not tell or like to hear jokes. They prefer intelligent and satirical wit. Funny stories of real life situations are appreciated.

Corporate Culture
  • Professionalism is highly valued in business and is the key to acceptance of outsiders.
  • France enjoys a skilled, well-educated labor force. Hard work is admired, but workaholism is not.
  • Be on time. The French appreciate punctuality (the more South you go, the less important is this rule)
  • Many French speak and understand English, but prefer not to use it. An interpreter will probably not be necessary, but check ahead of time. Use French only for greetings, toasts and occasional phrases unless your French is perfect.
  • Government plays a major role in business. Find a local representative (banker, lawyer or agent) to help you through regulatory obstacles.
  • Business people tend to be formal and conservative. Business relationships are proper, orderly and professional.
  • Don't discuss personal life with business people. Personal lives are kept separate from business relationships.
  • The French get down to business quickly, but make decisions slowly after much deliberation.
  • Organizations are highly centralized with a powerful chief executive. Bosses are often dictatorial and authoritative
  • French are leaders in the area of economic planning. Plans are far-reaching and detailed.
  • Entering a room and seating is done by rank.
  • Meetings follow an established format with a detailed agenda.
  • The French dislike disagreeing and debating in a public forum, but enjoy a controlled debate, whereby an informed rebuttal is appreciated.
  • The purpose of meetings is to brief/coordinate and clarify issues. State your intentions directly and openly.
  • Presentations should be well prepared, comprehensive, clear, well-written, informative and presented in a formal, rational, professional manner -- appealing always to the intellect.
  • The French dislike the hard sell approach.
  • Things actually get done through a network of personal relationships and alliances.
  • Avoid planning business meetings during August or two weeks before and after Christmas and Easter period
  • Do not call a French businessperson at home unless it is an emergency.

Especially for Women
  • An increasing number of French women hold management positions in retail, service, law, finance and human resources. Foreign women are generally accepted in business, though they may be flirted with on occasion.
  • Women are better accepted in management positions in the major cities than the provinces.
  • Business women may invite a Frenchman to lunch or dinner and will have no problem picking up the tab.

Here after links of interesting articles :

Pour les français, petite piqure de rappel:

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