I live in an apartment, so I miss out on some home-stay-specific activities, specifically family meals. Although I studied abroad in France a few summers ago, my French had gotten rusty since then, and so have my table manners. However, there are a few things I’ve remembered and learned while dining with my friend’s host family this time around.
1) Knife is right, fork is left. You’ll see diners everywhere eating like this, even while eating salad. It’s also common to eat certain foods, like peas, off of a knife.
2) Elbows sur la table. I’d always been taught, “No elbows on the table,” but here it’s very normal and, in certain contexts, odd if you keep them in your lap.
3) Ask questions, even if they’re oddly worded or about “taboo” topics. Right now in France, there are a lot measures being discussed (marriage equality and taxes, to name a few). Dinner conversation topics include everything under the sun, and almost nothing is off-limits. You may even want to ask what you’re eating (if you aren’t sure). Once I was unknowingly served veal, and then on another occasion, cow tongue. Never hurts to ask, really, especially if you have dietary restrictions.
4) If you’re just dining for the first time with your host family, or with a friend’s family, the verb, “se tutoyer” is pretty handy. This basically means that you can address the family informally. So, you might hear something along the lines of this (from the family): “On peut se tutoyer” (We can speak informally now). This is a welcoming sign, and it means that you don’t have to address them in the same manner as you would a stranger, your professor, etc.
5) Get ready for a ton of courses. The food’s delicious and you get to eat for around two hours. Scores all around.
- How to Get a “P” in Paris (isastudentblog.wordpress.com)