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Fork tines down, point with thumb...what other cultural differences do I need to know?

Fork tines down, point with thumb...what other cultural differences do I need to know?

Feb 12th, 2007, 06:49 PM
  #1  
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Fork tines down, point with thumb...what other cultural differences do I need to know?

Ok, I am not trying to "not look like a tourist" BUT..when in Rome ...one should make an effort to be Roman!(or French in this case) What else do I need to know???
artlvr is offline  
Feb 12th, 2007, 07:20 PM
  #2  
 
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My secret: I never tried not to look like a tourist. The simple fact is that you can't.

So learn a few basic elements of etiquette (such as bonjour in France), learn and use a few simple phrases, and relax.

Oh - and behave yourself.
Robespierre is offline  
Feb 12th, 2007, 08:34 PM
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artlvr, eat the way you usually do at a restaurant. If you must, watch the locals while you are dining and copy how they eat. But why?
SeaUrchin is offline  
Feb 13th, 2007, 12:25 AM
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You need to know that when those people come over HERE they aren't so ashamed, or whatever it is, of things such as their eating style that they try to change it.

In fact when they find out you are trying to "eat like they do" they may even start laughing.
Dukey is offline  
Feb 13th, 2007, 12:46 AM
  #5  
lawchick
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It depends from country to country in Europe and is quite complicated.

There are in fact two ways of eating in France. The normal continental way is
- knife in right hand, fork in left hand. Eat food with fork still in left hand- tines curving downward. Hands always visible above the table and no elbows.

However, an alternative French method is in fact little bit like the American way - albeit a lot slower and a lot less...This is favoured by more bourgeois members of society - where as in America, after cutting your food, you switch the fork to your right hand, place your knife on the plate, spear a piece of food, and then eat it. There are subtle differences in this style of eating - that I wont go into here.

I would stick to the more straightforward continental style.

Also - don't cut bread or lettuce.

But you don't have to listen to me - apparantly the advice here generally is - "do whatever you are most comfortable with, money is never refused...."
 
Feb 13th, 2007, 01:01 AM
  #6  
 
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There is a wonderful "guess the etiquette" challenge offered in France.

It used to be the custom that one retained the same cutlery from entrée to main course, so after finishing the entrée one put them on the table beside the plate (after wiping them with bread to avoid staining the tablecloth). If you left them on the plate, the server would remove them and place them on the table. That is changing, and now many restaurants change cutlery after each course. So the challenge is to judge whether to place knife and fork on the plate or on the table. I think it's about 50:50 at the moment, and I almost always guess the wrong way.

If you dine in a French home, expect to retain your cutlery.
Padraig is offline  
Feb 13th, 2007, 01:03 AM
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Fun in the morning. I tried chopsticks, I managed to get a bit of rice between them and conveyed to my mouth..tedious, I took up my faithful fork. Later in a Chinese restaurant in London I watched Chinese students eat rice...they used the chopsticks to rake rice from the bowl into their mouths. Some had their chins on the table and the bowl tilted toward their mouth. Very efficient. Do I now know how to eat rice in China?
GSteed is offline  
Feb 13th, 2007, 01:45 AM
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"If you dine in a French home, expect to retain your cutlery".

I always change the cutlery after a fish entree, using "couverts à poisson" which are different from regular knives and forks, and of course before cheese and for dessert.

In formal dinners the cutlery is changed after each dish.
Pvoyageuse is offline  
Feb 13th, 2007, 01:59 AM
  #9  
 
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This has got nothing to do with eating but...

since living in Europe, I now use my thumb to show "number one".
kleeblatt is offline  
Feb 13th, 2007, 02:17 AM
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This thread reminds me of a story about a royal visit to a small Canadian town, where one of the ladies who was serving said to Prince Philip, "Hang onto your fork, Duke, there's pie for dessert."

The name of the town varies with the telling, so it's probably untrue, but it's a great story.
MargrietVanderBanck is offline  
Feb 13th, 2007, 03:04 AM
  #11  
 
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Generally in continental europe you need to keep your hands in sight and if possible elbows as well.

Not the case in UK where you keep your hands out of sight.

Seems that in olden days the hands below the table were up to naughty things.

So generally in Italy keep your hands visible.

In france don't take flowers to a house on the day of a party (obviously she has already chosen her flowers for today so yours suggest incompetence) send the flowers the next day to say thank you
bilboburgler is offline  
Feb 13th, 2007, 03:07 AM
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Pvoyageuse wrote: "I always change the cutlery after a fish entree"

I was avoiding stating what I saw as obvious!
Padraig is offline  
Feb 13th, 2007, 03:19 AM
  #13  
 
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"point with thumb" / "since living in Europe, I now use my thumb to show "number one"."

I thought I'd read on a previous Fodor's thread that this was the American way ? I've never seen it anywhere.
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Feb 13th, 2007, 03:22 AM
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Hi Caroline:

In the states, I always used my forefinger. In Switzerland, all I saw were thumbs. Gave a whole new dimension to "thumbs up."
kleeblatt is offline  
Feb 13th, 2007, 03:48 AM
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"Hang onto your fork, Duke, there's pie for dessert."

This would never happen in France. All desserts are eaten with a spoon.
kerouac is offline  
Feb 13th, 2007, 04:05 AM
  #16  
 
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Showing the thumb for the number one is probably less important than the way to show the number two. The number two in France is shown with the first finger and the thumb as in "Two beers please".
In North America we use the first and second finger thrust upwards. This seems to have another meaning in Europe especially if done with a snarl on your face.
robjame is offline  
Feb 13th, 2007, 04:27 AM
  #17  
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Thanks to all for the info-
Dukey-I am not ashamed of being American, I just believe one should try to imitate ;to some degree. the culture around them. There were good answers here. Don't worry Robespierre, I always have a wonderful time in Europe!!! I think America has lost too much etiquette and manners and try to be sensitive to this as I travel.
artlvr is offline  
Feb 13th, 2007, 05:06 AM
  #18  
ira
 
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Hi Art,
>...etiquette and manners and try to be sensitive to this as I travel.

Do not point your forefinger at someone's face unless you wish to start a fight.

Don't touch the merchandise. The shop assistant will get it for you.

Take off your hat in a church, put it on in a synagogue.

Keep to the right on sidewalks and escalators.

ira is offline  
Feb 13th, 2007, 05:24 AM
  #19  
 
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Artlvr,

Thank you very much for your explanation of why you are chossing to do as you do. It wasn't the least bit necessary but bthanks nonetheless.

I am sorry if I offended you in any way whatsoever by implying that the reason you have decided to change your style of eating was because you might be ashamed of it.

I hope you have a wonderful trip.
Dukey is offline  
Feb 13th, 2007, 05:53 AM
  #20  
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No offense taken Dukey! I value yours and Ira's and many others opinions on this board.LOL! Ira-point well taken as to not touching items in a store! I learned that one the hard way years ago in Italy! Also learned NEVER to touch produce at an outdoor market!!! They will ask you how soon it will be used and for what and will then pick what is best for your circumstances. Thanks to all. I leave the 27th.
artlvr is offline  

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