French Drinking Customs

From time to time, it’s interesting to consider how drinking customs may vary from one country to another.

Let’s have a look below at some aspects of that in France.

The bar

In Britain, the world began with pubs. Their culture was pretty much transferred to Australia, meaning that for a long time, pubs were a place that mainly men went for a few drinks.

By contrast, in much of France the street corner bar was always part of the local community and family scene. Today, in a French bar you can see people sitting having a beer or spirits at one table whilst at another, a family will be sitting down for a coffee and their kids will be drinking pop of one sort or another.

In general, that culture has moved into Australia too over recent decades and the bar is now often more of a diverse recreational centre than a place blokes go to drink.

Drinking hours

Traditionally, some French folk would start the day in the early morning by popping into the bar for the strong coffee and a little spirit of some sort!

Those days haven’t entirely gone. Whilst it is an more usual today to see people popping into their bar for an early morning café au lait and croissant, you can still see some taking the opportunity to get their first beer or cognac as fortification for the day ahead.

In spite of stereotypes, generally speaking, drinking at lunchtime in France is modest. It is still commonplace to find people who will have a glass of wine or a beer with their lunch but the days of the legendary 2 hours+ “working lunch” washed down with a couple of bottles of wine are now the stuff of history (apart from special events).


Unlike in what the French call the “Anglo Saxon world” (they usually include Australia in that), aperitifs aren’t normally just a few nibbles and drinks served up 10 minutes before you sit down for the rest of your meal.

In France, “Aperitifs” is a separate social event altogether. Typically they will start at around 6.00 PM and at around 7.30, you will be expected to politely leave having had a few nibbles, drinks and conversation.

If you are visiting France, do take note that an invitation to aperitifs is quite different to being invited to dinner! If your host expects you to stay for dinner, they will normally make it clear that they are asking you to come for “aperitifs and diner”.


These can be very different.

Typically, after the service you might be invited to join in what is called the “vin d’honneur” which is sort of a reception. At a time that sort of happens spontaneously, guests that have not been invited to dinner will start to politely depart leaving the married couple plus those that have been invited, to share dinner and an evening/morning of drinking and dancing that can easily go on until 4.00-6.00 AM.

After that, believe it or not, the guests may be expected to go back to join the couple in the wedding lunch having only had perhaps obtained one or two hours’ sleep! Needless to say, that lunch is usually lubricated with some top quality wines and beers – including some locally made ones in keg dispensers.

It’s a very different experience!

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