Whenever guests come to visit from the States I am reminded of the subtle differences between the two countries. Differences that I use to notice, though as most things, over time, have lost their impact on me. Nevertheless, when guests come to visit, the conversation leans towards the nuances between France and the US.
France May Not Be for You if.....
- The French sure do love their cigarettes. If you don’t like cigarette smoke, France may not be for you.
- If you expect to be fussed and fawned over at dinner by wait staff who act like your new best friend and offer up their name, France may not be for you.
- And if you may become upset and impatient when said wait staff let you relax and enjoy your meal rather than shoving you out the door, France may not be for you.
- If you need to touch and riffle through all the merchandise when you’re shopping and you think the customer is always right, France may not be for you.
- If you expect the French to smile, hold the door for you (a complete stranger) and speak to you in English, France may not be for you.
- If you don’t like cheese - the smell of cheese, the taste of cheese. It’s a country of over 365 cheeses and if you can’t handle that much cheese, France may not be for you
- If you prefer Paris sidewalks to be free of doggie doo, France may not be for you.
- If you’re not big on etiquette, using your manners, or going out of your way to be polite in a foreign country, France may not be for you.
- If you like mega-sized portions and leftovers, France may not be for you.
- If you thing aloof, private and reserved translates to rude, France may not be for you.
- If you have no desire to learn a bit of the language or culture before you go, France may not be for you.
- If you’ll be highly offended when you try to speak your best French, but you’re answered back in English, France may not be for you.
- If you’ll throw a hissy fit when the classy resto you’ve been looking forward to dining in won’t serve you at 3:30 for lunch or 5:30 for dinner. France has set hours for shopping, dining, banking and other services, France may not be for you.
- If you’ll be uncomfortable when Parisians blatantly stare at you while sizing you up on the Metro, France may not be for you.
- If you can’t sleep in anything less than a king sized bed or stay in a hotel room the size of a house, France may not be for you.
- If you might ask a waiter for a phone book to call the health department to report the women sitting at the next table in a bistro who’s dining companion is her dog, France may not be for you.
- If you’re not greeted with the same sense of urgency as you’re used to in other parts of the world (ie, the U.S.), France may not be for you."
"I made the mistake of assuming that my table manners would come with me across the pond as naturally as my southern accent did. The years of my mother’s training in the home were followed by etiquette classes in college, and I felt quite at ease in a formal dining environment. Then I moved to France.
Our first dinner with a French family was a truly wonderful experience. I remember I was taking a delicious bite of foie gras when my husband leaned over and said in a gentle voice, “Keep your hands on the table.”
"I had obviously misunderstood, so I smiled and leaned over to ask him, “What did you say?” He quietly, but firmly responded with, “Keep your hands the table!” Surely I had not heard him correctly, as any well-brought up young lady knows that you do not rest your hands on the table while eating. As I was thinking it over, he turned to me and calmly said, “Keep. Your. Hands. On. The. Table.”
At this point, I surrendered my badge of southern belle training and trusted my husband’s knowledge of French etiquette. I lifted my hands from their place in my lap to rest gently on the table. And then I looked around to realize that everyone else at the table was already doing just that.
As expatriates, we all have these experiences in which we see so clearly that our culture does not translate well into French. The rules are different, and in order to thrive in our new country, we must adapt to this new way of doing things. But first, we must learn what exactly these rules are. Let’s play a game of true and false."
3) Should you tear your bread into a bite-sized piece before eating it?
True. You should wait for the host to lead the way, whether an aperitif or dinner course. Once everyone has been served a drink, the host will generally make a short toast after which the glass-clinking begins. It is polite to make eye contact as you say, “Santé.”
False. While fast food has made its mark in France, eating foods with your fingers is still strictly limited when you are at the dinner table. If in doubt, follow the lead of your host. Mayonnaise or Mustard is the choice topping.
The comments yesterday were wonderfully said. If you haven't read them and you want to know more about differences between the French and the Americans you might want to read them.
Yes, some French take two hour lunch breaks, but not everyone. Though when the French have breakfast, lunch, or dinner they don't eat... they dine.
The French table is more than quenching hunger. It is the center of their lives. It is an art form, poetry of conversation, a feast in motion, it is a source of pleasure, it is the gathering of family and friends, a daily celebration of living.
It is never on the go.
When my mother in law came to visit in the States (before French Husband and I were married) we went to have lunch before goingsomewhere... I ordered pizza, grabbed a bunch of napkins, and some drinks. In the car I gave her slice of pizza, and a napkin. She gave me a startled look, uttered something in French... in which case I put the piece of pizza in my mouth, and with my hand imitated her to do the same.
She gasped. It took years us years to understand one another.