The French dining rules you'll need to follow at Christmas

The French love their food rules and with Christmas approaching here's a reminder of how to navigate those lengthy festive meals and avoid inviting ridicule at the table.

Arrive 15 minutes late, but not later

Arrive 15 minutes late, says French blogger and Youtube sensation Géraldine Lepère. While in many countries this may be considered rude, in France this is a golden rule. “It’s an unspoken agreement between the host and the guest because the host might be a little late preparing everything and the guest won’t want to embarrass the host by arriving early,” says Lepère. But be warned: this rule only applies to dinner parties and not for dinners at restaurants.

Present or no present?

This is often a disputed point. But French expert on good manners Jérémy Côme says it isn't the done thing to bring a gift when you are invited to dine in someone's home in France and there are several reasons for this he explains.

"The first reason is you put the host in a delicate situation," he told BFMTV. "Suppose you bring a gift from a big name brand, the person may not have the means to return the favour."

And the same goes for bringing a bottle of wine. Côme says the hosts will have prepared dinner and the wine to go with it. So you could create an awkward situation if you turn up with a bottle of Bordeaux and you are served Boeuf Bourguignon, which would normally be washed down with a fine Burgundy wine.

But most importantly of all, don't bring Champagne, says Côme.

"If your hosts have not planned for it, it can put them in an embarrassing situation," he added.

Or even worse Prosecco. It's not from France you see!


Remember the toast is very important in France. Don't just go "Cheers Everyone". You'll need to chink glasses with each person and remember to look them in the eye. Never cross your arms over other people who are toasting too. "Santé" or even better "A votre santé" (to your health) is the right thing to say.

Don't spread your foie gras

"Many French people are proud of foie gras; when it is served cooked and chilled, take a generous slice, set it on the toast that will be served with it, and enjoy. Don't treat it like a mousse, and try to spread it," Herrmann Loomis says.

"This controversial delicacy and like all fine foods in France you have to treat it with the respect the locals think it deserves. And a big part of this is resisting any urge to spread it on bread before you eat it. It's not a Brussels paté, you'll be told."

"And while we're at it, don't talk about animal cruelty when there is foie gras in the neighborhood. It's a traditional dish; the French copied it from the Egyptians a gazillion years ago, so if you really have a problem with it, take it to Egypt."

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