Vacation is over and nearly everyone is back in Paris, which means catching up with friends over dinner or Apero. A dinner party, apero or anything that brings you into a French person’s home is an invitation into a new lifestyle. Paris Living means learning the Parisian way of life while hopefully living here in your dream home. Here are a few things I’ve learned about visiting French people’s home:
1. Get the codes!
One culture shock that still takes some getting used to is the use of multiple door codes to get inside buildings. It is imperative that you ask for the codes along with the address. Although most Frenchies are used to this detail and will probably give the code without being prompted, be sure to double check and get the digits beforehand. There’s nothing worse than standing outside of someones’ building, food in hand, calling but not getting a response because they are busy hosting other guests. Be sure to have this detail before even leaving your house!
2. Never come empty handed!
Etiquette in many cultures states you should never show up at a person’s house empty handed! In Paris, the classic gift to bring is wine (multiple bottles depending on group size) and baguette (bien-cuit). Ideally, you want to bring something that you will like and something everyone else will like. Then, there’s always the question of budget. I do not miss American things like ‘Two-Buck-Chuck”, Trader Joe’s infamous cheap wine. I find the hangovers just aren’t worth the savings. Unfortunately, I can’t splurge on a bottle of Caymus for a girl’s night either. Luckily, there is a happy middle ground. When searching for wine, look to stores like Nicolas which is a chain store of alcohol located around Paris, La Grande Epicerie de Paris (just because it’s beautiful and plush) and even regular and lower-end supermarkets like LIDL. In fact, LIDL is currently having a huge wine promotion featuring wines during its ‘Foire aux vins’.
The thing about wine is it’s equally delicious and educational. Studies have shown, after a few glasses of wine many people speak better French (or whatever foreign language they are learning). Wine makes you better at geography as well! After picking out a few bottles you will suddenly know where the Loire valley region is vs the Burgundy region and what you feel about the wines from each. Maybe at home you would bring a six-pack of beer or a bottle of liquor but trade that in for a bottle (or three) of wine when visiting French friends at home.
2. Brush up on French culture beforehand
With the wine flowing, conversation is bound to flow freely. The typical topics should come up: the changing neighborhood, an exposition or show that’s out, complaining about crazy neighbors etc. Now that it is September two topics are sure to be brought up: Rentree and Vacances. Rentree is what we refer to as ‘Back to School’ in the States. It would help to brush up your knowledge on the names of grades here; CP is 1st grade, Collège is not the same as American college but the French version of middle school and passing the BAC is an end of year feat most teenagers worry about. After school you will see little French kids with their big square bookbags, plastic covered books and trotinettes on the sidewalks; what a special time of year! Additionally, vacances d’été are bound to come up unless the Frenchies you’re with are planning a September vacation. French people take their vacations very seriously and with reason. On average, French people are entitled to 30 days of vacation and August is the most popular month to leave for vacation. Be sure to ask how they passed their vacation (as if you didn’t already see the whole thing on Instagram)!
3. Dessert may be cheese
One more thing to keep in mind is the concept of dessert may be a bit different in France than at home. Back in the states, I remember dessert time starting with coffee then a variety of cookies and cakes being placed out. In France, it is not uncommon to have some oozy-gooey cheese, jam and or fruit for dessert. It feels sophisticated, less sugary and more cultured. Coming from someone that loves Nutella rice-krispy treats and chocolate pies, French dessert is a nice change. Not to say cakes, cupcakes, treats, and pies are the wrong to bring just don’t be surprised if they aren’t devoured immediately. These desserts may be seen as too sugary or over the top for some French palettes. In general, fruits, jams, nuts and cheese are acceptable and safe desserts for a dinner-party.
5. Know how to get home
Last, but not least, always know how you will get home afterwards. Hosting party guests is fun but no one likes a surprise sleepover! Depending on how long your party goes until you may not be able to take the metro or perhaps you are afraid of the night bus. The metro in Paris stops running around 1:40 am and if you are in the outer-suburbs the connecting train lines like the J or L stop around midnight on weekends. There are ride-share applications that are popular in Paris such as ‘Kapten’, ‘Heetch’ and Uber. I recently learned cash payment is an option with Uber which makes things even more convenient. I would not suggest driving or biking after drinking all night so be sure to look into your other options on how you’ll get home assuming it will be a late night.
Friends, food and drink are always fun no matter where you are but knowing what to bring or what to talk about in advance can make it even easier. We hope you will be enjoying this fall season with plenty of intimate dinner parties around Paris.