Restaurant etiquette in France

Feb 7th, 2008, 04:12 PM
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1. NO, NO, NO.

2. We Europeans eat with the knife in the right hand and the fork in the left hand. We have the knife in the right hand because we need the stronger hand to cut the meat. And with the knife we position the food onto the fork which is in the left hand. This is simply the reason why both hands are over the table.

3. I do not understand this question. Why should you switch the fork from one hand to the other??? This is completely nuts!!!! If you do so, the French waiter will think there is something wrong with your head but he will have some sympathy for you.
traveller1959 is offline  
Feb 7th, 2008, 04:21 PM
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<<Eating with fingers is no no, except bread.>>

And, of course, lifting the half oyster shell to your lips and sipping the liquid. I was a little surprised the first time I saw it at Thoumioux ... I have since tried it myself and heard angels blowing trumpets.

On a slightly related note (and forgive my rambling; I have a fever), one rarely sees French people drinking coffee from a styrofoam or paper cup on the street. But watch what people do when they're carrying their baguette home at noon. I have a vivid recollection of an elegant man wearing a navy blue wool overcoat. He was tearing pieces of baguette from the end of the loaf and eating them; a dusting of bread crumbs cascaded down the front of his coat.

People do eat things like quiche in the street and bring things like "baguette jambon" onto the train for lunch.

Now I want to go back to France ...

AnselmAdorne is offline  
Feb 7th, 2008, 05:16 PM
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regarding bozama's comment that Americans hold their forks like a fist. Not necessarily true. Some do. I've actually seen Rick Steves in his videos hold his fork like a fist and shovel food in, and a couple of other times I've seen him hold it "normally". I don't know what's up with that.

I tend to equate the weird "fist" holding as a bit low-class looking. I had an ex who did that occasionally, and I just didn't get it.

But I don't think anybody is going to say anything about switching forks from one hand to the other.

I've never seen anyone bring your own drink into a restaurant. I think I've heard where some places (here in the US and abroad) that allow you to bring your own wine, but I could be mistaken.
whoknew is offline  
Feb 7th, 2008, 07:46 PM
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> 1. NO, NO, NO.

> 3. I do not understand this question. Why should you switch the fork from one hand to the other??? This is completely nuts!!!! If you do so, the French waiter will think there is something wrong with your head but he will have some sympathy for you.

Wouldn't the world be a much better if people placed as much value on tact and diplomacy as they do on knowing which hand to hold one's fork in?

Bloom is offline  
Feb 7th, 2008, 10:35 PM
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BYO booze is the rule in many countries where restaurants need special and/ or expensive licenses to serve alcohol.

In Bavaria, there is BYO food (but not drinks!) in beer gardens - not kidding you.

Even in France, people who have a life usually have better things to do than to constantly stare at your hands and watch how you hold the fork.

We do it this way, you guys do it that way.

You'll have better and more exciting things to do in Paris than to worry about that stupid fork business.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Feb 7th, 2008, 11:39 PM
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Hi hopalongmay, Cowboy is right. Don't worry or think about your hands or your cutlery! Do what you usually do - no-one will care, and you'll never see any of them again anyway! Worrying about etiquette will only prevent your enjoying the experience.

But please don't take your own water! Bon appetit.
MissJane111 is offline  
Feb 7th, 2008, 11:51 PM
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The way you eat, the way you dress, we will always recognize you...
baldrick is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 12:06 AM
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As indicated above,a resounding No
to BYO water.

However, do politely request a
Carafe d'eau (pronounced carafe
Rhea58 is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 12:15 AM
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Bozama I can really relate to what you are saying. The first time I saw an American 'stab' their steak with their fork i.e. the fork is held straight up by the hand in a fistlike grip, and then proceed to cut up their meat, I was absolutely shocked and astounded. I couldn't believe how crude, rude and ill mannered it was. Truly I was stunned. But then I realised that this was often the 'norm' for some folk and well I guess whatever works for you.

I was also told by our guide recently in Paris that the French do not touch food with their fingers, apart from bread of course.
stormbird is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 12:18 AM
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Oooh something else I learned in Paris (but you cosmopolitan Fodorites probably already know this) the waiter will not come to take your order until you have put your menu down.
stormbird is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 12:20 AM
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"But really, no bringing in bottled water. I can't imagine that being allowed anywhere. "

The only place I've seen it is in Morocco, where the waiters were happy for us to drink our own bottled water instead of ordering more. On several occasions they were about to ask us if we wanted anything to drink when they saw our big water bottles in the sides of our backpacks and said 'oh you already have water'.

Definitely wouldn't do it in Paris!
mariposa85 is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 12:51 AM
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Actually, both ways of holding the fork are accepted. It is just regional differences. Neither is more right or more wrong.
travelgourmet is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 04:42 AM
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I wonder how many people here would dine with their elbows on the table? There seem to be many here that seem so blase about simple etiquette but there are many more that still pay attention to your dining manners and what it says about you. SO keeping your left hand on the table is important if you want to do the right thing which is still important in many circles. Anyway you know that because you asked the question.

lemidi is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 05:00 AM
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I know some older Austrians who like to make little off-color jokes about the "Ammies" and their hands on/in their lap. It is just a cultural difference.
longboatkey is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 05:05 AM
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The rule (in England) for elbows is that you are allowed an elbow for each time you have met The Queen. So if you've met HRH twice then you can put both elbows on the table.

God knows what rules the frogs have.

I thought the hands above the table thing was to show that there was no impropriety between the guests.
Cholmondley_Warner is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 05:24 AM
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I agree about the eating with fingers thing.
If a knife and fork is provided, you use it, even for pizza.
I'm puzzled by the fisty fork thing.
Where does the handle go?
Does it stick up above the fist or is it enclosed.
I use the method that the Wikipedia article describes as "hidden handle".
I always think that holding one's knife like a pen is very Mrs. Bucket.
MissPrism is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 05:35 AM
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As someone said earlier, the way you hold your knife and fork is purely a cultural habit. To say that the American method is 'rude and crude' is itself rude, and also provincial -- as if their own equally arbitrary custom is somehow inherently superior.

I think the main objection to the U.S. method is that it's normally less inefficient. But that has nothing to do with good manners or the lack of them.

As an American living in England, I'm completely objective!
mjsilver is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 05:36 AM
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Sorry, I meant less efficient, not less inefficient.
mjsilver is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 05:40 AM
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From the Wiki article on fork etiquette:

The cause of the difference in custom is uncertain. It is believed to have originated because the 17th century American colonists had established themselves before the fork, and any custom of its use, had become widespread in Europe. The implement did not become widespread in Europe (certainly northern Europe) until the 18th century, and was not adopted in the United States until the 19th century. The American use of blunt-ended knives was also a factor.

kerouac is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 06:15 AM
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You do not bring your own food and drink to a restaurant iin Amrica do you? How can a cafe stay in Business if people bring their own supplies. Its really not that different in customa.

I never heard the whole hands on lap or table nor could I be bothered to notice...relax and be yourself.

As for fork usage. I never knew I ate different in America Until someone commented that I used my left hand for the fork more...must have picked it up from my Irish parents. I tend to eat that way but its just a small difference and no one the same.

People think europeans have posh manners or rules its not true...we have slightly different ways of doing thinks just like the U.S. is slightly different in cultural customs. Don't think about it just go and enjoy.
SiobhanP is offline  

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