French Etiquette: Silent Communication Using Silverware

French Etiquette: Silent Communication Using Silverware

When eating at a fine restaurant in France, there is a silent code diners use with forks and knives to talk to waiters. A sort of sign language via le couteau and la fourchette.

As an American I was unaware of this table etiquette when I first arrived, but with just a few moves you can master it. This communication also exists in the United States, but the positions are a bit different and I find it is more widely used in France.

“I’m still eating, just taking a break”

French style
American style

This position expresses that you are still enjoying your dish, but just resting your silverware. The first is the “European” style and your knife and fork can cross or not. The “American” style on the bottom is quite different and I’m not sure it would be understood in France.

Don’t put your silverware on the table while eating because it may stain the tablecloth. Crumbs can be removed between courses, stains can’t.

“I’m done with this course”

French style
American style

This position signals that the waiter can take your dish away.

The “European” and “American” signals for being done with a dish are the same, just with the fork tines facing different directions. But unless you are dining with the president, I wouldn’t worry about the tines so much.

“I’m completely done eating”

If you are enjoying a long, multi-course meal, this is the signal that you are completely done eating.

These signals are very simple, and once you know about them you will notice a lot of people using them. I find that here in France this type of communication is most commonly used in fine dining and gastronomy restaurants. 

Did you know about this silverware sign language before coming to France? Any other signals you’ve learned? Leave a comment and share!

1 thought on “French Etiquette: Silent Communication Using Silverware”

  • I knew about them but have always been confused about which means what. Thanks for this little bit of helpful information!

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