French table manners are quite a bit different than those associated with American table manners. See how international etiquette in a French meal is different.
One of the first things to realize is that eating is much different over there than it is here. In most cases in the United States, we try to eat as quickly as possible. We really do not make it a social event. In France, it is not a hurried event. So, make sure you slow down while eating and plan on spending some time.
There are certain things that are typical with most French meals. Bread and cheese are very common in their culture. It is one of the things that they are well known for. So, be prepared to eat some of this.
The bread is commonly used to not only eat with cheese, but it is usually used to clean up the plate in preparation for the next course. It is also more polite if you use your fork to soak up what is left on the plate with the bread at the end of the fork. If you are having a very formal meal, then you can expect to have a new plate for each course.
Common table manners in France say that you should not take a large bite of bread from the whole slice. It is more polite to tear off a small bite sized piece before eating it.
You should take the napkin that is in front of you and lay it across your lap when the meal starts. However, you should only do this at the same time that the host does it out of respect.
In French table manners, it is also considered to be impolite to have your elbows on the table. However, it is also considered rude to have your hands in your lap. Your hands are expected to be above the table at all times.
As I mentioned above, one of the main things that surprised me about French table etiquette is that it is a social event that is not rushed. A traditional meal would be a full course meal. It would start with an aperitif, an entre, cheese, and dessert. This would be a typical dinner in France.
If you are ever in doubt as to what to do, follow what the host does.
Eating in France was a life changing experience for me. It is such a different culture, different types of foods, and a great change to slow down and eat a meal. In fact, I think Americans can learn a lot from their philosophy of preparing a full meal and enjoying it together with family or guests.
It was a great way for them to share memories together. It was a time to enjoy each other's company. It was a time of togetherness in the midst of the craziness of the day. I think there are lessons of etiquette there for all of us whether we go to France or not...
That was my experience with French table manners...