Demystifying French dining etiquette – Part Three: During the meal

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Table manners are very important to French people and can be tricky for overseas visitors. If you are planning on visiting France any time soon, you can’t go past our guide to French dining etiquette. 

Last time, we explored what happens as the meal begins: when to start eating, where to sit, and what to do with your hands.

This week, we take a look at what happens during the meal. From giving compliments to serving sizes, Cyndie – better known as Mademoiselle Slimalicious – has covered it all. So don’t be intimidated by the French dinner party – learn these ground rules to be the best guest ever, and ensure a repeat invitation.

Bon appétit !

1. Compliment the host

Always compliment your French host or cook about the food that is served.

Tip: Do not wait to be asked if the food is good, take the initiative.

2. Serving size (food)

Guests eat small portions of every course. Each course is brought in order and passed around. If your French host asks if you would like to go for a second round, it is polite to accept, to show that you like the dish. If you decline, the host may question you (in front of everyone) about how you’ve found the food.


Tip: If you are no longer hungry you can ask for just a little bit because it’s delicious or simply decline: tell the host how delicious you thought the food was, but explain you want to “keep some room for dessert”. This is very acceptable!

3. Serving size – wine


Two very important rules:

  • Never fill your glass of wine yourself. Instead if you want more wine, wait to be offered some.

Tip: Alternatively, ask the person sitting next to you if they would like a top up. Only then you can pour yourself some more.

  • Never fill your glass of wine to the top. This is unacceptable in French culture. A glass of wine should not be poured to more than half way!

4. Don’t get drunk

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Pace yourself. Don’t forget that you may still be served a dessert wine, champagne or a digestive (liqueur).

Tip: You should leave your wine glass nearly full if you do not want more wine.

5. Eating Salade

A green salad is sometimes served as an entrée but it is also common to serve it after the main meal and before the cheese platter (French people say it eases the digestion).


Lettuce or green leaves should not be cut, you should rather try to fold the leaf and bring it to your mouth with the fork.

6. Cutting cheese

You would always be presented with a cheese platter at the end of a meal (never with pre-drinks like in Australia). Cheese is expected to be eaten with bread – not with crackers!


Also, you must know that French people are very particular when it comes to cutting cheese. Cut it lengthwise. Round cheese is cut by means of making wedges.

7. Language


If you are visiting rural areas or smaller cities, speaking basic French is crucial. People in the French countryside consider it rude to address them in English.

Tip: Learn to say that ‘the food is delicious’! It will help you make friends!

This article was originally published on Mademoiselle Slimalicious.

Image credits:
1. Dining etiquette, via Kitschy Koo
2 & 5. Le dîner 1 & 2, by vincen-t on Flickr
3. Table Setting, by Renée S. on Flickr
4. Willow Creek Winery, by Hannah Duke
6. Plateau du fromage, by Rubber slippers in Italy on Flickr
7. Dîner da la Cour, by Kahala

About the Contributor

Cyndie Bowen

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