Le Plaisir d’offrir

What to offer a French host or hostess. Say it with… what?????

There are so many préjugés (preconceptions) about etiquette in France, and it can actually be quite stressful worrying and wondering if we are ‘doing the right thing’ in a foreign county.Le plaisir d'offrir

So what should we take if we are invited ‘chez nos amis français’ for drinks, lunch or dinner? We don’t want to be seen as mean by taking too little, to offend by taking the wrong thing, or upset by going OTT

‘En famille’ or with close friends, many French agree in advance on taking dessert.

Champagne is always welcome anywhere – but pul-eeze – it must be the real thing!

Personally, I always take a bottle of wine, but it was recently pointed out to me that this could imply (only to the paranoid, I suspect) that my host doesn’t know his wines or hasn’t planned ahead by picking out the right ones. Quelle insulte! “And of course” my informant added “If you are going to take wine, it must be exceptional quality, and thoughtfully chosen”

Le Plaisir d’offrirWell, that’s me out – I choose wine by its colour!

So what about flowers? Surely there can be nothing offensive about offering a colourful bouquet of flowers to a kind hostess?

Well, flowers are a delightful gift but of course, you must never take chrysanthemums, as they are for the dead, …..or carnations, which the French believe bring bad luck…. or red roses which you should only give to lovers….. or yellow roses which have something to do with adultery and jealousy……

Fortunately most of our French friends are no more aware of French etiquette than we are, and are happy to see us, whether we come bearing appropriate gifts or not.

Here’s what the French have to say.

Annie, Les Chartreuses

Je trouve normale d’emmener quelque chose. C’est un geste de remerciement et de savoir vivre. Si c’est quelqu’un que je ne connais pas bien, j’emmène des fleurs. C’est le geste qui compte mais j’aime emmener un cadeau de qualité quand même

Philippe, Saint Cyprien

Moi, j’ai vécu longtemps en Angleterre donc je ne suis pas typiquement français – je suis plutôt ‘Franglais’, mais que ce soit en Angleterre ou en France, j’aime bien partager une bonne bouteille avec de bons amis. Par contre, si le repas n’est pas bon, je reprends ma bouteille et je rentre chez moi! (Je plaisante!!)

Michèle, Bolquère

J’emmène une bouteille de champagne et des fleurs. C’est une façon de vivre, c’est sympa. Il ne faut pas emmener du pipi de chat, c’est-à-dire, un mauvais pinard.

Useful vocab

emmener – to take (something)
geste – gesture
remerciement – thanks
savoir vivre – good manners
quand même – all the same
j’ai vécu longtemps – I lived for a long time
plutôt – more like
que ce soit – be it…
partager – share
Par contre – on the other hand
je reprends – I take back
je plaisante – I’m joking
façon de vivre – way of life
pipi de chat – cat pee (tasteless)
pinard – plonk




  1. If you know the hosts well, you’ll know what they expect. Offering a previously agreed dessert is usually welcome. A jar of home-made jam is usually well received, but something else with it, say a small packet of chocolates from a chocolatier.
    If you don’t know what to take and you know friends of the hosts, ask ’em what they suggest.

  2. Truffles maisons. Ha Ha. Read my sorrowful account of offering Marrons Glacés
    maison to my ex- daughter-in-law. I sent her a box of 20. – three months later I discovered the self-same box containing 19 and a half Marrons Glacés….

  3. I love the part about taking back the wine if the dinner is not good! Hilarious…
    I have found that flowers sometimes throw the hostess into a quandary when he or she has already placed flowers in the house for the event, so we sometimes take wine, saying that it is NOT for the event, but to drink together later. Now I take truffles maison and they seem to work, haha.

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