20 France Dining Etiquette Tips

France Dining Etiquette
During a dinner in France, wait for the host to show you where to sit and say "bon appétit" before eating. Keep your hands on the table at all times. Don't ask for butter; don’t leave the table before your host.

1. Follow Your Host With Seating Plan

One aspect of French dining etiquette is to follow your host’s seating plan. Seating plans are mainly based on factors such as age, status, and relationships, with the most honored guests seated closest to the host.

2. Don’t Show Up Empty-handed

Bringing a small gift or gesture of appreciation to your host is customary and demonstrates good manners and respect for the French family.

The gift doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, but it should be thoughtful and appropriate for the occasion.

3. Don’t Expect Customizations In A Dish

Almost all people order directly from the menu without special requests. Therefore do not expect customization. Chefs put a lot of thought and effort and take pride in preparing their dishes according to the traditions.

You may be allowed to make a special request if you have allergies or other dietary restrictions. 

4. Meals Aren’t Split

French food portions are small then you’re used to. Sharing a plate is not acceptable except for cheese or charcuterie à partager. If you inquire about splitting meals, the waitstaff will flat-out decline.

5. Butter Is For Breakfast

Butter on bread
Butter on bread during breakfast; not lunch/dinner

Butter is a common breakfast component in a French meal, particularly in traditional breakfast items such as croissants, brioche, and other pastries.

Many French people enjoy spreading butter on their toast or bread in the mornings. You shouldn’t ask for butter with your bread or toast at lunch or dinner

6. Wine Or Water Over Soft Drink And Cocktails

Wine is the preferred choice to accompany meals, but water is always a good option and is normally served alongside wine. Soft drinks and cocktails are available but are not common at traditional French dinner parties.

7. Bread Etiquette

The French follow these etiquette rules for bread:

  • Place bread on the table, not on a bread plate or basket.
  • Tear a piece of bread with your hands; don’t cut it with a knife. 
  • Use bread to mop up sauces or scoop food from your plate.
  • Don’t waste bread; take what you can finish.

8. Keep Your Hands On The Table 

Keeping your hands visible during a meal shows you are not hiding anything. This helps to establish trust and respect with your host and other diners.

9. Keep Napkin On The Lap 

Unfold the napkin and place it on your lap before you start eating. If you need to leave the table during the meal, place the napkin on your chair to indicate that you will return to the table.

Learn more: 8 Napkin Etiquette Rules & Tips

10. Use Both Knife and Fork 

French culture has a long-standing tradition of always eating with a knife and fork. Hold the knife in your right hand and the fork in your left hand. 

Hold the fork with the curved portion pointing up in what would be considered an upside-down position. Place the fork and knife at 4 and 8 pm if you are still eating and side by side after finishing your meal.

11. Fold The Salad; Don’t Cut

You should fold salad leaves instead of cutting them. Cutting the leaves can bruise them and release excess moisture, making the salad soggy. Folding the leaves helps to keep them crisp and intact.

12. Ice Is Uncommon

Ice cubes in French dining aren’t common, as they are thought to dilute the beverage’s flavor. Pastis is the only drink served with ice cubes. 

13. Get Over Ketchup

In 2011, France imposed a ban on ketchup in school canteens. Ketchups in France are rare unless you’re eating fries. You are to consume your food as it is.

14. Don’t Rush The Meals

Taking the time and enjoying meals is a cultural norm, and rushing through them is not viewed positively. French cuisine is a form of art, and meals are an opportunity to savor the flavors and appreciate the preparation.

15. No Seconds

Finish everything on your plate and refrain from asking for more food. You can always get more drinks, but getting a second helping of food is rare.

16. Refills Take Time 

It is common for refills to take some time when dining in a French restaurant. They prioritize quality and relaxation over speed and efficiency

17. Complete Everything Off Your Plate 

It is polite to finish everything on your plate as a sign of appreciation for the meal and the effort that went into preparing it. Be mindful of portion sizes and take what you can comfortably eat.

18. Don’t Leave The Table Until Your Host Finishes

It’s French table etiquette not to leave the table before the host. The host leads in all aspects of the mealtime ritual, and waiting for their lead shows respect for their role.

19. No Doggy Bag

You should finish your meal because if you don’t, the host may feel offended thinking the food was bad. So, for this reason, don’t ask for a doggy bag. It’s restaurant etiquette not to ask for a doggy bag.

20. Pay At The Counter

You should pay your bill at the counter once you finish your meal. Don’t expect the server to come for your check.

What Are Some Of The Common Phrases One Should Know When Dining In France?

  • Bonjour: Hello
  • Je voudrais: I would like
  • S’il vous plaît: Please
  • Merci: Thank you
  • L’addition, s’il vous plaît: The check, please
  • Excusez-moi: Excuse me
  • Au revoir: Goodbye
  • Qu’est-ce que vous recommandez?: What do you recommend?
  • Je suis allergique à..:  I’m allergic to…

What Is The Table Etiquette For Wine In France?

  • The host or sommelier is responsible for pouring the wine. 
  • When holding a glass of wine, grasp it by the stem, not the bowl. 
  • Before taking a sip of wine, smell the wine by quickly sniffing the glass.
  • Make eye contact with the person you are toasting with, and raise your glass slightly before taking a sip.

Also read: 14 Wine Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts

What Is The Difference Between Dining Manners In France And The United States?

EtiquetteFrance 🇫🇷United States 🇺🇸
Table SettingsSet with a bread plate and butter knife to the left of the dinner plate and a water glass and wine glass to the right.More elaborate, with a complete set of silverware for each course and sometimes even a soup spoon, salad fork, and dessert spoon.
Ordering FoodIt‘s impolite to rush a meal, and diners should take their time with each course.The server may take your order quickly and the meal may be served all at once or in rapid succession.
Eating HabitsThe fork remains in the left hand and knife in the right throughout the meal.Switching the fork and knife between hands is common when cutting and eating food.
TippingA service charge is usually included in the bill, so tipping is unnecessary, but a small tip of 5-10% is appreciated for exceptional service.It is customary to tip 15-20% of the total bill for good service.


Tabitha is a curious and enthusiastic writer who believes in the power of words and the importance of good manners. Etiquette is her passion, and she enjoys sharing her knowledge with others. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her family.

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