After living in a foreign country for several years, it’s funny how suddenly you notice something
So imagine my surprise while having lunch with colleagues one day when I noticed something unusual: my colleagues were always putting their arms and hands on the table while eating. A big no-no in North America, I remember my mom always saying “elbows off the table!” What else hadn’t I noticed?
Now table manners in France don’t include putting the full elbow on the table, but the rule is both hands must be visible. Both the Anglo-Saxon and French traditions go back to the Middle Ages, where food
Today, even though there are no weapons, keeping your hands on your lap is impolite in France. Now if you are like me, all this leads to a funny little ballet, as you unconsciously put your hands away, and then re-consciously put them back! (I have stopped the fork and knife switching hands during the meal ballet, but this one is more difficult!)
☞ READ MORE: French Dining: History and Etiquette
France vs. North America
Even more complicated, being an Anglophone Mom, how to explain these mannerisms to young children who go back and forth between cultures? I suppose it could be an opportunity to explain the difference between norms, the French and the English, just as the languages are different. (My kids are still aiming for eating with cutlery, so I suppose we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it!)
So what do you do in your culture? Is it still “Elbows off the table!”? Does etiquette still matter? Sound off below!
¹ Featured Image: by Matthew Henry
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