Written by Alexis Goldberg,
Last Modified: 17th December 2021

How to adapt to the French way when you are invited out to eat at friends’ houses.

The French love to eat and see social occasions as a real family celebration, even when there is nothing in particular to celebrate. Every country has its own little etiquette rules when it comes to entertaining at home, so here are a few tips on how the French do it. It is always good to know you are doing things “their way” if ever you are invited to dine in someone’s home.

It’s perfectly fine to turn up about 15 minutes late and I believe this is particularly the case here in the South of France, where the lifestyle is pretty laid back and no-one is very punctual. As for what to take, either a bottle of wine or some chocolates is fine. If you are on close terms with your hosts, do offer to help with the food – perhaps a dessert or starter.

If you are inviting your French friends to your home, always have a basket of bread on the table.

“Aperos” are always offered before the start of the meal along with a selection of nibbles such as tiny pieces of cheese, little crackers or peanuts. Once you sit down, glass of wine in hand, people clink their glasses and say “sante” – good health. Even the children do this. Apparently it is considered bad luck to cross arms when you do this, so even if you have to stretch across the table, try to avoid this if you can.

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Once the meal starts say “bon appetit”. We don’t really have an equivalent in English which maybe demonstrates how eating together is so important to the French.


Good food, good times, when you live in France


Traditionally, meals in France have always been several separate courses, said to enhance the flavour of each one. So don’t be surprised if you are served a starter followed by a meat or fish course perhaps and then salad on its own. As for cheese, this is always offered after the main course, the thinking presumably being that it is also savoury so follows on naturally from previous courses and the dessert should be left to the end.

So all the talk is of buying overseas is finally over and you’re ready to head out to France for a viewing trip to find your dream home, and sample the delicious food of course. Find out how to make the most of your visit by downloading our free guide to planning a viewing trip.

If you are inviting your French friends to your home, always have a basket of bread on the table. Practically no meal is eaten in France without bread.

Coffee will always be served at the end of the meal and very often liqueurs too. The French like to make their meals into a grand social occasion and take their time over it. No meal should be rushed in France – surely one of the reasons why we all love it so much!

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