Restaurant etiquette in France

Feb 6th, 2008, 12:25 PM
  #1  
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Restaurant etiquette in France

Hi everyone,

Husband and I will be in Paris in two weeks and I have been reading up on proper etiquette while in a restaurant. A few questions..

1. Is it okay to bring your own drinks into a cafe or restaurant? I read in a guidebook that it is okay to bring bottled water to save money but I don't want to do this if it is rude or inappropriate.

2. What is the reason for keeping hands over the table?

3. Is it okay to switch the fork from the left hand to the right after cutting a piece of meat? I was just curious about opinions on this as there was a great debate in another thread.

Any other restaurant tips and do's and dont's would be great...

thanks
hopalongmay is offline  
Feb 6th, 2008, 12:28 PM
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>>Is it okay to bring your own drinks into a cafe or restaurant?<<

No, no, no -- and only an idiot like Rick Steves would suggest it.
Zerlina is offline  
Feb 6th, 2008, 12:30 PM
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1. Do not bring your own drinks. No no no.
2. Do whatever you want with your hands. Who on earth told you anything about hand etiquette?
3. You can use your utensils however you want. Different cultures have different habits. Paris is the most visited city in the world and has seen it all -- and accepts it all.
kerouac is offline  
Feb 6th, 2008, 12:31 PM
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"Is it okay to switch the fork from the left hand to the right after cutting a piece of meat"

What do you mean by okay? I doubt anyone gets beaten up over it. It might look a bit hokey to some.

Do you switch?
vjpblovesitaly is offline  
Feb 6th, 2008, 12:32 PM
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And why would you bring bottled water to a restaurant in Paris when the unlimited tap water is free (and one of the best tap waters in the world -- no chlorine)?
kerouac is offline  
Feb 6th, 2008, 12:33 PM
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i switch all the time

hopalongmay is offline  
Feb 6th, 2008, 12:34 PM
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thanks everyone, fodors is the best place to get honest up front answers...
hopalongmay is offline  
Feb 6th, 2008, 12:35 PM
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I'll take a swag.

1)no
2)can't say I've ever noticed this. I'll let the locals comment
3) I feel so low class. I do this naturally, unless I think about it.

Other tips...always say Bonjour on the way in and Au revoir/Bonsoir on the way out. I also tend to catch a waiter's eye before sitting at an outdoor seat. Don't expect them to bring the bill, it will only arrive when you ask for it.

Don't feel like you have to tip, it is included in the pricing. You could leave the change, or if it was really over the top a small additional amount.

Coffee after meal, not during.

If you order water, may be asked gaz/no gaz (also could see petillant for gaz). It basically means do you want is sparkling or flat

Restos will post menus outside, so you will have a chance to check it out before going in.

Menu usually refers to "pre-packaged" complete meals that are priced in differed tiers. So you could order the 20 euro menu, and pick from within that group (I'll have the soup, fish, and dessert). Or go to the 30 euro menu and take the escargots, duck, and dessert. Often good value. If you don't want one of the menus, you can order a la carte, which is basically from what we would call the main menu.
Michel_Paris is offline  
Feb 6th, 2008, 12:36 PM
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"2. What is the reason for keeping hands over the table?"

This is so that you can talk. Haven't you heard the joke about how you get a Frenchman to shut up?
travelgourmet is offline  
Feb 6th, 2008, 12:40 PM
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Maybe you heard that you can bring a pastry into a cafe and eat it there. This was an old tradition in France that may no longer be praciced. But really, no bringing in bottled water. I can't imagine that being allowed anywhere.
travelme is offline  
Feb 6th, 2008, 01:41 PM
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That's quite a visual - customers walking into a restaurant and plonking their own bottles of water on the table! Don't do it.

One other thing that may be useful, the French tend to eat a lot of things with their knives and forks that most Americans would eat with their fingers. You'll never see a French person pick up a drumstick of chicken, for example, and most often they'll use knife and fork for things like pizza. If in doubt, don't pick food up with your hands.
StCirq is online now  
Feb 6th, 2008, 01:52 PM
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ira
 
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Hi H,

>1. Is it okay to bring your own drinks into a cafe or restaurant?

Of course not.

2. What is the reason for keeping hands over the table?

Continentals keep hands on table. Americans keep left hand in lap.

3. Is it okay to switch the fork from the left hand to the right after cutting a piece of meat?

That is why Americans put left hand in lap.

That isn't the way the French do it, but you want be asked to leave if you do.

Tax and a 15% service charge are included in your bill. The SC is not a "tip".

If you wish to leave 1-3 E on the table for the waiter, it will not be refused.

Enjoy your visit.

ira is offline  
Feb 6th, 2008, 02:11 PM
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Sorry, hopalongmay, I simply feel totally silly tonite ;-)

Q: Is it okay to bring your own drinks into a cafe or restaurant?
A: Only if they are well stirred, not shaken, and extra dry.

Q: What is the reason for keeping hands over the table?
A1: Just a precautionary measure to keep the average French male from entertaining himself during the meal.
A2: What is the reason for keeping one hand in the lap? I think the answer is already given.

Q: Is it okay to switch the fork from the left hand to the right after cutting a piece of meat?
A: Only if you are a right-handed person.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Feb 6th, 2008, 02:39 PM
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haha Cowboy- very funny!

Bloom
Bloom is offline  
Feb 7th, 2008, 12:43 PM
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One additional bit of advice; the French do not "slice and dice" their salad. Rather, they use the knife and fork to fold the lettuce leaf into an edible portion. This takes practice...I know. When done properly it seems elegant.
oakglen is offline  
Feb 7th, 2008, 12:48 PM
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oakglen, I don't know any Americans that "slice and dice" their salad either!
MonicaRichards is offline  
Feb 7th, 2008, 02:34 PM
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I don't know why the French prefer to keep one's hands on the table during meals, but that's definitely the way it is. Perhaps it's to demonstrate that no one is holding a weapon?
Underhill is offline  
Feb 7th, 2008, 02:55 PM
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Given how lengthy a French meal experience can be, it seems awkward and uncomfortable to keep one's hands above the table, especially while waiting between courses.

Now that people can't hold a lighted cigarette while eating/waiting, do you think this custom will fade away?
d_claude_bear is offline  
Feb 7th, 2008, 02:58 PM
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Underhill is closest to the mark, and as the "keeping your hands above the table" does in fact date back as a way of showing you were friendly and not hiding a weapon. I do not think it is solely French, and I do not think many people think about it as much nowadays.

Tap water is fine, I have no idea why some people feel the need to buy water when the local water is so good? I live in British Columbia Canada, our water is good, and the water in Paris tastes just fine to me. The only time I pay for water is when I feel like sparkling water with lemon. Save money by drinking tap water in Paris.

I have seen some Americans eat in this passing the forks and knives around way, and holding the knife in their hands like a fist,, it doesn't bother me in the least, but, the first time I saw it was 20 yrs ago on a cruise, and I have to say my husband and I were shocked, we thought it looked very rough, and here we were on an elegant cruise, we though perhaps our tablemates were " from the country somewhere" but we soon learned it is just how they do it. Looks like more work to me. No one will care, since I am sure they have seen a thousand American tourists before you and they were most likely all eating that way.

Cutting lettuce is a no no.
Eating with fingers is no no, except bread.

Asking for butter for bread, well, you can ask, and you MAY recieve it, but bread is normally not buttered ( except at breakfast when it is toasted baguette, known as tartines)


bozama is offline  
Feb 7th, 2008, 03:11 PM
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1. NO, don't take your own water!! Buying mineral water with your meal isn't as expensive in France as it is in the states, and you can always ask for "un carafe d'eau" (tap water) if you want free water.

2. LOL... I'm not sure how it got started (probably the weapons and friendliness idea) but I know I've heard stories like what Cowboy says (of people getting teased for having their hands in their lap, like "What are you doing with those hands??!" You will see that everyone rests their wrists/hands on the table and I always followed suit and kept my hands visible too.

3. Use your silverware however you like. You won't be doing it the way they do, but that's okay. I found keeping my hands on the table to be an easy way to follow the cultural norms, but changing my silverware-handling to be much less easy and not worth the worry.
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