Help please! We just had our neighbours call round to invite us for Aperos tomorrow evening. First contact. We are all between 50 and 70. What is étiquette? What do we take along, how long do we stay, what topics are out of bounds… all help gratefully received.
Yourselves (complete with masks).
This guide might help but avoid the kisses and handshakes with “fist bumps” perhaps.>
Beverages – a bottle of decent vino will never go amiss. But if the mere thought of choosing a quality wine gets you trembling at the knees, and heaven forbid going to an actual wine speciality store and speaking to someone for advice, then you can play it safe. A few good ‘guaranteed not to get you glared at’ options are craft beers, fresh fruit juices (ideally from a local market and the hosts know the farmer’s son who picked the fruit) or something that is native to you. Fortunately, as an English person, this means one thing (weather permitting) which instantly makes you win the aperitif (it’s not a contest, but hey, winning is winning) – Pimm’s. Thank God for Pimm’s, eh?
Do you make anything edible yourself or do you have chickens?
If you are living in the country, home made jam or chutney will prove very acceptable.
No religion or politics, unless the topic is brought up re lack of vaccination etc.
Aperos is not meant to last very long so, don’t be first there, no one will be on time and don’t be last to leave.
or equally, first to leave
We are the only ones there, so we will be first and last to leave… I have a million daffodils, all rare varieties, can I take a bunch? And a jar of fraise sauvage jam?
The tradition is that aperos last an hour. But if you are all getting on fabulously then it can extend. You can usually judge it by how much food they bring out, and whether they open another bottle (There is a modern apero dînatoire that I hate ! Neither one thing or another).
Talk about gardens, local shops, any questions you have about local activities, that sort of anodyne thing. Be prepared for personal questions too, but don’t ask them back!
You say lots of rare daffodils…wonderful. You don’t happen to have any backhouse daffodils do you? I have just discovered that my grandparents were Backhouses, and an offshoot of that lineage, and of course can’t source them from Yorkshire now!
If you remind me later in the year you can order them to my son’s and I will bring them back and send them from here. Still building my collection, sadly left them all in my welsh garden… But they are in good hands. D. bought the house because of the orchard and the wisteria and the fully Guinea pig conform lawn…
Someone has to be
This ‘rule’ of social etiquette is rather silly. It smacks of ‘U’ and ‘Non-U’. Someone has to be, as has been noted already.
What becomes of those who are either first to arrive or last to leave? Never invited again? Now on the slate as ‘don’t know how to behave’? “Oh! Those uncouth people! They arrived first/left last!”
One arrives when one has decided that it’s time to pitch up, irrespective of whether others will have or not, bearing in mind the tendancy [if known] of the hosts to be ready to receive guests or usually found spinning their wheels 20 mins after time of invitation.
Perhaps the French take a different approach to this than I am familiar with, maintaining a formality which has very largely been abandoned in UK, for example, as getting in the way of having a relaxed good time.
I’ve always been told not to take a bottle of wine as it can be seen as not trusting their judgement!
“Hotel California Syndrome”
I’ve heard that too, although everyone is always pleased to have a bottle of our Cremant.
Or like the bourgeois dinner party guests in Buñuel’s ‘The Exterminating Angel’. They couldn’t leave the dining room. Children, servants and animals wandered in and out at will. Eventually all the servants went AWOL, leaving the adult guests in increasing discomfort, then squalor and rowing, stuck in the dining room.
I can’t remember now how Buñuel scripted the mechanism which allowed them to leave.
Or, in the case of friends of my parents, confirming their appalling taste. Despite the wife being Belgian, I have been to lunch at theirs where they actually served Hirondelle.
There is that joke - the miracle that Jesus never performed - turning Hirondelle into wine.
Maybe something a little off-piste? Like Madeira or Masala or Vino de Malaga [19% a.b.v. - very similar to Masala] a favourite of mine since I was 12!
That’s not rhetorical. As I have no idea, how would that go down?
Unless you know french people well I would not take foreign alcohol of any sort. Could send you down conversation paths you may not wish to go. Even the most liberal seeming person can find their inner xenophobe when it comes to wine. Not all of course, but you need to know them first.
In my experience, the French love Scotch Whisky - always welcome.
I shall bear that in mind. Their supermarket wine depts certainly bear that out.
Tho’ interestingly, I always took a bottle of wine to lunches with my friend’s parents. Dr Muñoz was always interested in what I’d chosen.
In Spain, flowers for the hostess are bomb-proof.
We would never take scotch whisky anywhere…and no way are we offering irish whiskey to heathens that will put coca cola in it and drink it as an aperitif!
(Edit, I tell a lie. We have given Jura whisky to some friends)
All of this brings me on to gifts for services rendered.
I finally found a chap to mow the lawn when I managed a visit last year. I know he has done so at least once essentially on trust that I will pay him - obviously I have no intention of not doing so.
I don’t think he’s a great one for emails, I sent a card and a message at Christmas asking him to mow if we could not get over - haven’t heard anything back but if he has done so I think he deserves not only payment but a token of gratitude (which, it goes without saying, will be considerable).
But what, I hardly know him having spoken (and in my broken French) just once - I was thinking of whiskey but alcohol is fraught with dangers as observed above. Does anyone have any suggestions?