I am starting a new blog series simply called “How To” as I literally want to show how to live La Vie Parisienne
The first How To will be about Parisian Dinners. Dinners and / or dinner parties are very important everywhere in France. Contrary to where I come from, dinner parties happen quite often and are usually quite simple and without a lot of effort for the host. To me it seems like the French prefer to invite people more often (which is only doable with an easy dinner) rather than only every now and then for a fancy dinner. I like this thought, as it brings people together more often. And also, food that doesn’t require hours of preparation isn’t necessarily bad food! Au contraire in fact! Sometimes the simplest meals are the best! Anyway, before I start writing so much about my love for this dinner party habit of the French, I will get into the details or in order to stick to the name of my new series: The How To.
Before the dinner:
- Buy a little gift for the host(s). This could be one the following:
- Bringing a bottle of (quality) wine is always a good choice. If you are not sure which wine to choose, I recommend going to a wine store and ask for help
- Bringing sweets is also always welcomed. A box of (quality) chocolate would be a good choice
- Flowers (when there is a woman among the hosts) work as well
- If you want to be extra nice and the host(s) have kids, you could bring a little toy or book as well
- Never ever bring food to a dinner party unless specifically discussed with the hosts in advance! It would be very rude and would put the hosts in an awkward position if you would just show up with food as an alternative for the planned meal
- Pick an outfit that is not too dressy but also not too casual. Parisians like to keep it simple but “simple” in this case means good quality basics, not sweatpants.
- Very important: If you have allergies or if you are vegetarian or vegan, you need to inform your host some time in advance. In France most people eat all types of food and sometimes do not have a good understanding of special dietary choices. Hence, you need to “warn” your hosts upfront so that they have the chance to come up with an alternative.
At the host’s / during the dinner:
- Never arrive on time! You need to be at least 15 min late. While this is considered rude in other countries, it is rather the opposite for France / French dinner parties
- After greeting everyone and asking how their day was, there will usually be an aperitif and something to snack on. People usually sit down in the living room while one of the hosts finalizes the dinner or the last steps of the entrée. Typical aperitifs are e.g. Kir (white wine with créme de cassis) and Champagne. Of course you can also chose for non-alcoholic.
- French people like to talk or better said: they like to discuss. It can happen easily that a conversation (or discussion) gets very heated. Don’t be thrown off by that – it’s normal. People discuss intensely and afterwards they act completely normal again, as if nothing has happened. I guess that’s just a French thing. But don’t worry, this does not happen all the time. Just wanted to mention this, so that you are prepared… .
- It is common that dinners have at least three courses. Actually four, but for some reason cheese doesn’t really count as a course. The courses are usually accompanied by wine.
After the dinner:
- Be prepared that dinners can take quite long. This is on the one hand due to the courses but on the other hand also because people simply like to get together. So just relax and enjoy it too!
- Compliment and thank the host for the nice evening (which is actually common sense).
You want to host a dinner in Paris or a Parisian dinner wherever you live? Check out the video of “BecomingMadame” below: