A-Z of eti­quette

Part one of our guide to life in France

French Property News - - Contents -

Although France and the UK are sep­a­rated by a mere 35km stretch of wa­ter, mov­ing to France some­times in­volves more of a cul­ture shock than many new­bies ex­pect. With this new A-Z se­ries I’ll take a light-hearted look at the quirky side of life in France in a guide that will be handy for any­one con­tem­plat­ing a prop­erty pur­chase in France, as well as those keen to blend in with the lo­cals.

A is for apéri­tif The apéri­tif, or apéro if you want to sound prop­erly French, is a ver­i­ta­ble French in­sti­tu­tion and a handy one at that. Now I am a so­cia­ble per­son and like an evening with friends as much as the next man, but I don’t al­ways fancy go­ing the whole hog with a din­ner party. It’s not that I’ll be slav­ing away over a hot stove – my wife does the cook­ing in our house, not be­cause I am a sex­ist pig but be­cause we pre­fer to eat food that is ac­tu­ally ed­i­ble – but an en­tire evening of French con­ver­sa­tion over a three-course meal (and the French will ex­pect noth­ing less from din­ner!) can be a bit ex­haust­ing af­ter a day of vis­it­ing houses with clients!

The apéri­tif is the French equiv­a­lent of a cou­ple of af­ter-work drinks at the pub in the UK. You get a few friends to­gether at home early in the evening, have a few sher­bets and then dis­perse in time for ev­ery­one to go their sep­a­rate ways for din­ner. Well, that’s the idea although just as a few drinks at the pub can turn into a beer-fest and wob­bling home at kick­ing-out time, so an apéro can also ex­tend into a longer-than-ex­pected evening which may in­volve scour­ing the fridge for enough to make an im­promptu meal for the in­creas­ingly merry crowd.

A few apéro point­ers to bear in mind: No drink with­out food – the French are a bit can­nier than us when it comes to lin­ing a stom­ach in prepa­ra­tion for al­co­hol in­take and never gen­er­ally in­dulge with­out some­thing to mop up the booze. Your French friends are un­likely to limit the of­fer­ing to a tired se­lec­tion of nuts and crisps either – you may get a sump­tu­ous ta­ble of char­cu­terie and cheese, pain de cam­pagne and tape­nade, pâté on mini toasts, olives or even mini cubes of bizarrely flavoured Laugh­ing Cow (be­lieve it or not, not ev­ery French per­son is a gourmet in the kitchen). If you’re host­ing, make sure you of­fer some­thing in the way of food. You can of­fi­cially up­grade your apéro by call­ing it an apéro dî­na­toire which will sig­nal to your guests that they will be get­ting a more sub­stan­tial feast but with­out the in­con­ve­nience of cut­lery or the for­mal­ity of sit­ting around a ta­ble in­volved in an ac­tual dîner. While it may take you some time to get your head around the sub­tle dif­fer­ences be­tween these French so­cial events, they are sim­ply use­ful short­hand for the French who will im­me­di­ately know what to ex­pect from each. If you are in­vited to an apéro, don’t turn up empty handed. Take some­thing to eat (sug­ges­tions as above but avoid the Laugh­ing Cow) and a nice bot­tle of wine, Mus­cat, craft beer or fresh juice.

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