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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Advice: Party Etiquette in France

Bri & I had the opportunity to host a 'cremaillère' combo birthday party yesterday and I learned quite a bit about proper etiquette both for going to a party, having a party and the different types of parties.

Types of Parties
Cremaillère:  A cremaillère is a house-warming party.  It's typical for invitees to bring something useful such as spice jars, a crepe maker or a recipe book.  Usually snack food/drinks are provided to guests, but it is still polite to bring a bottle of wine.

Apero-Manger: Apero-manger is when everyone invited brings a certain finger-food dish.  For example one might bring a couple bags of chips, a set up of crudité, mini desserts.  Remember to ask the host(s) what you should bring, as they usually dictate who brings what.

Raclette: Raclette parties are absolutely one of my favorites.  It's basically a 'melty cheese party' but not fondue style. 

As you see in the left picture, this is a 'raclette' machine.  What it is is a simple hot plate with a grill on the underside.  You cut cheese (usuall emmenthal or reblochon)  and put it in the small little pans, under the grill for 2-3 minutes.. and then pour over whatever you'd like.

Normal accompagniments with raclette are potatoes, charcuteries and some vegetables.  My recommendation is to use smaller potatoes, grilled veggies and ham/turkey.

(More information on throwing a Raclette Party)

Crêpe Party:  Crêpe parties are a lot like raclette parties (using the same machine usually, but the top part not the bottom part).  It's a big bowl of batter, everyone makes their own crêpe and stuffs it themselves.  It's usually a savory/sucré type thing so it's best to have both options prepared.

Special Parties: By special I mean events during the year.  Here's a great link that describes the holidays... here  and another website to explain the holidays and methods. Birthdays/anniversaries are the same around the word (i believe) EXCEPT, one opens the gift during aperitif, not at the end, and never announce to the birthday person that you are 'bringing a gift'.  I notice in America it's habitual to say, 'I bought you a gift' before seeing the person.. it's a phenomena French people don't understand.

Going to a Party
In France, when invited, always bring a small gift.  It could be some lovely flowers, a simple bottle of wine or even some chocolate.  It's a way of telling your host(s) that you feel very welcome and a thank you. 

Remember when you arrive to always 'fait le bis' at every person. 

If you don't know someone, introduce yourself!  It's very rude to ignore others at a party.

Practice small talk; meaning learn some simple phrases of things to discuss.  NEVER ask the typical questions Americans usually ask:  'what are your hobbies', etc, instead focus on asking what career they'd like to do, what school they went to- where they have been on vacation.

When you leave, ensure you thank the host(s) once more and again, 'fait le bis' at everyone.

Having your Own Party
Doing it at your own home can be a risky business- but it can also be very amusing.  Here's how we did ours...

First I prepared a lot of little snacks.  Picard sells many 'amuses-geules' or little hot snacks that you simply reheat for about €4 for 30 pieces.  I recommend also buying 'pâte-feuillité' and making some yourselfs.

-Lots of amuses-geules such as picard treats, or hot dogs wrapped in pate-feuillité and baked at 220 until golden
-Selection of seasonal vegetables cut into finger foods
-Simple dip (mix 1 container crême fraîche, yogurt, 1/2 cup ciboullette, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, pinch of nutmeg and a small amount of crême liquide.. stir and refridgerate)
-Mayonnaise (the French love dipping veggies in Mayo)
-Lots of chips
-Alcohol (beers, wine)
-Mini bread snacks, (I toast the bread for about 5 minutes, add toppings such as tomatoes or onions or cheese... delicious and it was eaten quickly)
to save some cash, the alcohol can be purchased at Lidl.. it wasn't too bad.

Me putting some 'amuse-geules' on a plate
Later in the Night.. all of us stuffed on the couch

Everyone Digging into the food..
Remember to make the rounds, greet everyone, offer a drink when they first arrive.  Show where the snacks are, explain you might be distracted... constantly make the rounds and talk to people.

Some advice?

Keep lots of toilet paper and paper towels around.  Spills will happen.  People will use the bathroom, all night, and nothing is worse than running out of toilet paper.

Use plastic cups and cocktail napkins if it's a big party (over 15 people) and glassware/plastic plates if it's smaller.  For groups of 3-6 you can use dishware.

Here's some helpful links:
How to Word Invitations in French
How to Host a Raclette Party
How to Host a Crêpe Party
Ideas for Themed Parties

I also want to mention the concept of 'YouTube' playlists and computers.  If you can attach your computer into the television, or if your computer has a large screen, you can make YouTube playlists so the music has a video attached.  It is really fun for people to interact and add videos, watch the music.. it helps.

Happy parties and good times!


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