DOs & DON’Ts: Hosting a Dinner Party in France…


Tired of hearing the French boast about their gastronomic supremacy?

The time to cook your old familiar recipes has come, but if you want to impress the French, you must keep in mind a few useful tips in order to avoid a major disaster…

Indeed, oven temperatures can be pretty misleading and you may have to frequently substitute ingredients. A previous American Community in France blog article, Cooking and Oven Temperature Conversions, laid out the basic rules for cooking your recipe in almost the same conditions as back home. However, mastering the actual cooking is not enough. Even with a 100% American menu, the dinner must take place within a well-defined framework. And in the country that invented etiquette, some other considerations must be taken into account:

– French tend to eat dinner later than in the US, so they may be surprised if you invite them before 8 pm.

-Don’t expect the meal to be a mere formality. The French enjoy food and having dinner is an experience in itself which may last up to 3 hours.

– Even if you want your guests to experience a 100% American dinner, they will be grateful if you include some French MUSTs such as aperitif, cheese and “digestif”…

– Don’t feel offended if your guests ask you questions about the food and the recipe. It is a good sign that usually means they’re enjoying themselves and might even consider using your recipe for the next dinner they’re hosting.

– Dinner is not only an occasion to eat good food and drink wine. The French have a passion for discussing, or rather debating, the latest news. If you don’t want to be left out, be sure to read the newspapers on D-Day!

– Your guests may bring you gifts: if they bring you a bouquet of flowers, be sure to have a vase ready for use. Should they bring a bottle of wine, it is usually considered a nice gesture to drink it during dinner or as an aperitif.

If you keep these rules in mind during your dinner party’s preparation and execution, your night is set for success.

Setting up the perfect conditions for a nice dinner will put you and your guests in the perfect mood for enjoying your American meal, which was the initial goal…

One last piece of food for thought : adding a French touch to your American recipe will help you create delicious and original dishes (like the crème fraiche and chocolate chips cookies), and might turn your dinner into a huge success !



Here are some books and guides that can also help you navigate the treacherous waters of the “mixed” dinner party.


  1. Avatar
    Katharine Koch

    Use of the term ‘Frenchies’ is as distasteful as calling Americans “Yanks.” Please !!

  2. Avatar
    Alan Dorne

    I prefer not to water down the experience for my French friends. They are not so fragile!
    American culture is exceptional. I am proud of it, and I present it authentically because I respect my French friends. If they they bring wine, I politely set it aside unless it complements my meal. When they ask why we eat so early I explain the history and then explain why I think it is healthier to eat heavy foods earlier in the evening.
    It is my home, not theirs, but they are entirely welcome. I do not expect them to change their meals for me when I dine with them. I revel in the French experience as well.
    IMO this is how to properly share culture.

    • Avatar

      Totally fair! Those are some tips to keep in mind in order to better cater to French culture, BUT ideally you want your meal to be a culture-sharing experience, so if you’re willing to discuss it and explain why you do it a certain way, even better!

  3. Avatar

    I was enjoying this article. This article talk of French in the old times. The French eat between 7pm and 8pm. Some French don’t like the red wine. I know some people. For the aperitif, this is right the French love to have the French musts including with the others aperitif. A lot of thing in this article is right but some elements are more in the time of my father.

  4. Avatar
    Lynda Bouniol - Daniel

    Personally I’m not sure if there really are do’s and dont’s, I think it really depends on where in France you’re living and the people you hang out with. My husband is French and so are my in laws, in our family the women do drink a lot of wine and so do our French friends. I also see many women here who drink beer.

    • Avatar

      I’m no expert but here are some major differences I’ve observed/experienced.

      -Frenchies will show up 10 minutes to an hour after the invitation time and this is not considered rude.
      -If you show up to a Frenchie’s place before the invitation time, that’s rude.
      -Frenchies don’t get the whole “help yourself” concept. You have to pass around whatever it is you’ve set out for aperitif to get the ball rolling.
      -Women usually don’t serve drinks or refill people’s glasses. That’s the manly man’s role. And, party girls beware, French ladies drink a lot less than we do ( on average) so unless you want your husband’s boss to think you’re a lush, ease up on the vin rouge. Am I the only one who fills guests’ wine glasses almost to the top? No, you too? Well my friend, this is crass, only fill it 1/3 of the way. By the way, I have never seen a French woman drink a beer. I’m not kidding. Even yummy microbrews.
      -You can serve American dishes and they will be delighted, but nothing too far outside their comfort zone. Once I hosted a casual Tex-Mex dinner and all my French guests asked for a knife and fork to eat the nachos and the tacos. It was a disaster!
      -Frenchies think it’s “quaint” to serve a meal family style ( putting out all the dishes of food on the table at once, think Thanksgiving). If you want to come across as quaint, go for it. If not, serve it up like they do.
      -Don’t forget good bread to serve with starter, main course and cheese.
      -Frenchies eat salad after the meal, serve it before the cheese plate or with it. Stick to a simple homemade vinagrette dressing. They don’t appreciate raspberry poppy seed yogurt dressing, believe me.
      -Frenchies drink their coffee black after dessert, not with it.
      -Frenchies eat desset with a spoon, not a fork.
      -Cheesecake is my secret weapon. Frenchies will talk about it for weeks after, you can’t go wrong.
      -Don’t rush the courses, Frenchies linger over each and every morsel and their should be a fairly long break between each. I mean, longer than an American would wait. So, like, double the time.
      -Frenchies won’t go home until 3 am.
      – I have not had much luck serving anything with green peppers, chickpeas, celery, whole grains, tofu, cinnamon, maple syrup, tabasco sauce, or seeds.

      good luck

      • Avatar

        I read your comment about frenchies. You have observed very well. Myself, I’ve difficulties to understand the French culture and then….. In my family, it’s important to be in family to share the meal and it’s right that a lot of friend don’t like to do it. Right too, the punctuality isn’t around in France.


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