French Table Manners

by Claire Valenty on January 29, 2010

in Table Manners

table french etiquette

Now that we covered American table manners, let’s jump across the pond to our friends in France for this article on French table manners. Are you thinking, wouldn’t they be the same? Actually, there are some minor and major differences between the two countries. In America, as soon as we are seated, we place our napkin on our laps. In France, you must wait until the lady of the house places her napkin on her lap, then you will follow suit. Also, putting your elbows on the table in America is a sign of a poor upbringing (I can still hear my Dad’s constant nagging of, “Get your elbows off the table!”); however, in France, it is customary to rest your hands on the table top. And speaking of the table top, your bread goes directly on it, unless the meal is very formal, which is the only time bread plates are used.

In American table manners, we learned that when someone asks for the salt or pepper, you always pass both. In France, you get exactly what you ask for. You want salt, you ask for salt. You want pepper, you ask for pepper. You want both, well, then you need to ask for both. Personally, that seems like the right thing to do, because, in America, if I want both, I’ll ask for both (just pass me the darn salt ALONE), but, I didn’t set the rules; I just write about them.

Ironically, French fries, a popular finger food in the US, must be eaten with a knife and fork when dining in France.

Now you’re covered on the main differences between French table manners and American table manners so you are totally safe to book that get away to Paris right away. Bon Appétit!

Photo: gimmestock/saphira

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

alma November 22, 2013 at 6:17 pm

how do i set my fork and knife when done with first course dinner?

Claire April 25, 2016 at 6:46 am

While taking a pause during dining place fork and knife in 90 degree angle on the plate. Approximately like this: /\
When you are done eating put fork and knife in parallel to the right of the plate. Like this: \\
This tells the waiters that you are done eating and they can clean up your plate.

More here:


– Claire

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