French table etiquette – a light-hearted look

by Sharon Santoni

They say that “manners maketh man,” and I’ve always thought there’s a lot of truth in that. Especially when travelling. As travel bans are about to be lifted, and we’ll be moving around again, I know that many of you – like me – are looking forward to leaving home and getting out to explore again, including enjoying other cultures.

dressed table

I remember when I first arrived in France many decades ago, I was very aware of the importance of etiquette. Having been raised in a family where a lot of attention was paid to table manners, I was particularly concerned not to get it wrong.

One memorable moment is when I was invited to lunch by rather a grand family in the Loire Valley. They served a cheese soufflé at the start of the meal, and the ambiance at the table was almost religious. A cheese soufflé is notoriously temperamental and apt to sink if not served immediately from the oven. We were ushered to our places well before the savoury appetiser was ready. The grandmother took the head of the table, and everyone followed her lead. We waited for her to be seated before easing into our own chairs, we waited for her to unfold her napkin, and her wine glass was the first to be filled.

three women chatting in store

This meal made a very deep (and delicious) impression on me, as a young girl still discovering France.

For you here is a light-hearted look at table etiquette. I filmed this video with my friends Octavie and Cécile in their lovely store, Maison du Bac, in the 7th arrondissement in Paris. They specialise in tableware and bring to their work all their family traditions and savoir-vivre. We chat about French table etiquette, manners and customs; family meals and France and more!

I hope you enjoy this little video!


Maricarmen Weiss May 27, 2021 - 1:52 pm

Il iked the table setting. Thank you very much.
The apropiate way to put knife and fork when one finishes eating is, the knife besides de fork and over the plate as showed, but the knife should be far from the person, the fork closer and the knife with the edge inside. She showed the fork where the knife should be.

Maricarmen Weiss

Kathryn May 28, 2021 - 12:49 am

Absolutely wonderful! Can’t wait to visit their store next time I am in Paris! I know 3 little boys who will now be waiting for me to sit down first before seating themselves ❤️

Susana Lucena May 30, 2021 - 1:39 pm

You are right!

Carolyne May 27, 2021 - 2:32 pm

Love this little shop, wanted to visit last time we were in Paris so I got out my trusty little map and was pleasantly surprised it was just up the street from where we were staying.

EA Lawrence May 27, 2021 - 2:53 pm

At our family dinners it is grandmere (moi) who is cooking and serving the dinner!

PARROT-FRANCIS Caroline May 27, 2021 - 3:49 pm

And then…!
I’m a grand’mother, cooking for more than a large family (14 to 20) and serving also….. they keep waiting for me ( a challenge to keep the food hot…) till I wish «bon appétit»… and everyone dives into one ´s plate

Merrilee MorrisonCotter May 27, 2021 - 4:02 pm

What is the age for wine? It was quiet, so I couldn’t really hear it.

Sharon Santoni May 27, 2021 - 4:15 pm

They said 15 🙂 I think there is some wiggle room on this number from one family to the next

Betty May 27, 2021 - 4:10 pm

Where is the napkin placed? Did I miss it?

Gretchen Lott May 27, 2021 - 4:19 pm

Very lovely video with excellent tips for all of us. Thank you to our French culture who give us guidance on how to live a la belle vie and with grace.

Lorrie May 27, 2021 - 4:41 pm

A fun glimpse into French dining etiquette. Table manners are so important.

Shelley Fleming Black May 27, 2021 - 5:27 pm

Thank you for the lovely video on french table manners. Vive la France!

Martha Vera May 28, 2021 - 1:11 am

This was just lovely! I agree with the etiquette. I will be doing this with my future grandson!

Chantelle May 28, 2021 - 2:48 am

This lovely video made my day…dreaming of visiting France again….

DD May 28, 2021 - 6:00 am

I love this store…discovered it when it replaced a favourite I frequented annually. The ladies are charming and kind…a delight to visit and I am looking forward to doing so again when travel eventually re-opens from Australia to Europe! Lovely video Sharon, merci!

Robyn May 28, 2021 - 6:09 am

Absolutely delightful. Thank you for that glimpse into meals in France.

Sarah May 28, 2021 - 4:49 pm

Very, very hard to hear even with volume turned up. Perhaps add closed captions? Because it was extremely interesting.

Lynn H May 28, 2021 - 5:33 pm

Loved this video!

Emm May 29, 2021 - 3:59 am

Great fun, and most informative. More such, please. Just hearing their accents made me feel so good about possible travel some day relatively soon.

Inge from Bavaria May 30, 2021 - 10:52 am

Dear Sharon, love this video an I do hope the shop will be open when I’m in Paris this August. I’m specially interested in the knives with the different coloured handles. Another matter: everytime I open your blog I hope to find a new short story like the “Burgundy Bliss”. Is there a future possibilty to read and treasure all of them in a booklet? This would be great. Love from Bavaria.

Freddie Hancock May 31, 2021 - 3:02 pm

This was informative, especially abut the fork/knife positions.

Julie June 2, 2021 - 9:56 pm

My family would like to know if it is proper to have pepper shakers at the table as well as salt shakers.

Giftbasketworldwide June 3, 2021 - 2:14 pm

Such a wonderful post. Thank you so much!!

Mrs. Laura Susan Bamberg Gideon June 9, 2021 - 12:46 pm

This was wonderful! I adore how the grandmother is the honored family member and waited for at the table. Thank you!

david terry July 20, 2021 - 7:37 pm

Oh, I’d like to see these ladies’ reaction what I’ve seen all too often at my house……women who use a nice formerly) napkin to wipe their heavily lipsticked, globber-mouths with. I don’t know how all the other ladies at the table manage the business, but there’s, all too often, always one who leaves you with a napkin that’ll never come clean.

We entertained a lot over the years, and we didn’t always know the “friend” an actual friend brought to the house. You should have seen Herve’s reaction every time some guest (usually a woman) made a showy point of finishing her meal and then carefully folding her napkin before prissily laying it down on the dirty plate.

Forget “Etiquette”….where did common sense go?….

Thanks for the useful posting,

David Terry.

OpenCeilings December 9, 2021 - 12:50 pm

Looks very pretty! If there was still more natural lighting during a sunny day it would be ideal. By the way, it can be achieved with a cloud ceiling. This is a new lighting technology that is rarely used anywhere.

curt April 13, 2023 - 11:41 am

It’s really important to learn table etiquette. Thanks for sharing these tips!


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