Etiquette. It can be a big deal in France apparently. Much is written about what to do or avoid doing when dealing with the French such as always saying “Bonjour” when entering a shop-if you don’t you are thought to be rude. I recently read on a blog somewhere that you should never take wine as a gift when invited to someone’s home for dinner as the recipients will think that you think they don’t know enough about wine and need your help for the correct choice. I asked Maurice about this and he said it wasn’t true. It would only be true for a very formal dinner but for a dinner with friends bringing wine is fine.

So, we went to dinner at a friend’s-and brought a bottle of wine which was happily accepted-and Maurice brought up what I had read as I told above. The guy, who is a pretty formal person, agreed and said that you also shouldn’t take flowers because the wife is busy cooking dinner and then has to dig up a vase and take care of the flowers and it can be a hassle. I did once get a bouquet of flowers from three different people and have to admit he has a point as I could only find two vases. He said the proper thing to do,especially for a more formal affair, is to have flowers delievered a couple of hours before dinner. That had never occured to me.

We all got to talking about etiquette and a young man who was there told me that America has all sorts of etiquette rules for dinners. This was news to me. I told him that, except for being late to someone’s home for dinner, I didn’t think there were that many rules in the States. He informed me that he took a course in college and that I was wrong. For instance, if I had a senator to dinner where would I seat him? To my right. If I had two senators the one on my right wouldn’t be the one I liked the best but the one belonging to the State that had entered the union first. I’m assuming that if I ever host a dinner in Washington, DC or in the White House, I will have to remember these rules but I doubt if I will ever have this problem. I left that night thinking that this arrogant young man should learn that you don’t tell someone from another country what the etiquette is their own country. You shouldn’t tell someone what’s wrong with the meal you just served them either which has happened to me here in France.

9 thoughts to “Rules”

  1. Though I would have no doubt been quite annoyed myself, in the young man’s defence: people often are not aware of the rules of etiquette that apply in their own country. Either they never considered the rules very closely, or their upbringing and friend circle was so informal that they were never exposed to the rules.

    My husband and I grew up in neighbouring villages, in families with similar income. Mine was a family of lower class making good, and I was quite literally “trained” in formal etiquette. His was an upper class family rebelling at upper class upbringing and romanticising the worker’s struggle. Formal etiquette, silverware and cloth napkins was something old and quaint grandmothers did.

  2. Funny that he considers where to sit Senators to be etiquette. Not a problem most of us face. He must have been in training to be a diplomat.
    I’d say we have some etiquette rules in the U.S. For instance, we put our hands in our lap during dinner when we aren’t eating. The French wouldn’t do that. And we always compliment something we like about the dinner rather than critiquing the cook!

  3. Interesting…In the US,if the shop is small, I seem to expect someone to greet me when I enter, and I respond.
    I was taught formal manners for the dinner table and rarely find anyone else who follows them, since we no longer dress for dinner,use cloth napkins at every meal and oodles of silver and wine glasses for every course. No regrets however!
    Great advice about the flowers…

  4. I do not take wine to a dinner party because I never want the host or hostess to think they need to use it that night when they might already have their wines planned out.

    Arrogant young man indeed. You must have had to retrain yourself mightily! I guess his etiquette course did not include instructions in politeness and taught him that it was okay to be rude. Imagine his response if you had lectured him on his own country’s “rules”.

  5. Oh my (shaking head)…. I can’t believe that you are leaving the SNAILS behind! I still remember the picture you took where the post was absolutely COVERED with those things!! I didn’t know what you meant by battling them until I saw that picture! Be sure to examine your boxes to make sure that you don’t take any of those pesky things along. And if you do bring some along, you put them on the Senators plate at dinner.

  6. Now that I have dual nationality, I feel totally free to rag on French “etiquette”..but generally don’t. However, sometimes I feel like we/they need to get their priorities straight.

    I had only been living in France for a few months when I got a proper dressing-down from my husband for cutting Roquefort cheese the wrong way at a dinner party…just an example among many.

  7. You’re right, no one should critique a meal their hostess made.
    If I had a senator to dinner with what is going on lately, i would make him eat outside alone til he promised to balance the budget!

  8. “I left that night thinking that this arrogant young man should learn that you don’t tell someone from another country what the etiquette is their own country.”


    “You shouldn’t tell someone what’s wrong with the meal you just served them either which has happened to me here in France.”

    This is crazy. I can’t believe someone did that, WOW.

    I’ve had people ask me for my recipes (how to refuse politely?), I’ve had people ask me “what did you put in this??” (but in a good way), but thank the lord no one has ever actually tried to critique the food I served them. I don’t know how to react to that.

    The US does have all sorts of rules for etiquette, and it depends greatly on what culture you come from. There’s not just “one American culture”. People there think differently, speak differently, and behave differently depending on what culture they belong to and their cultural perspective and navigation.

    Also, in the southeast (especially) of the US, for many traditional families, a premium is placed on “charm” and etiquette. (That is, if you’re from a traditional family like mine.)

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