If you do take wine, however, don’t be surprised if your hosts put it to one side for a future occasion; they will already have planned the wine for the meal and know that a wine needs to settle before it can be drunk.Flowers can be tricky, as to some people carnations mean bad luck, chrysanthemums are for cemeteries (they’re placed on graves on All Saints’ Day), red roses signify love and are associated with the Socialists and yellow roses have something to do with adultery, and marigolds ( soucis) simply aren’t de rigueur. You shouldn’t serve any drinks (or expect to be served one) before all guests have arrived – even if some are an hour or more late!

If you’re offered a drink, wait until your host has toasted everyone’s health ( santé) before taking a drink.

Never pour your own drinks (except water) when invited to dinner.

If you aren’t offered a(nother) drink, it’s time to go home.

Always go easy on the wine and other alcohol; if you drink to excess you’re unlikely to be invited back!

), and will quickly switch from vous to tu with new social acquaintances, although older people may be reluctant to make the change.

Some people always remain vous, such as figures of authority (the local mayor) or those with whom you have a business relationship, e.g. If you’re invited to dinner by a French person (which is a sign that you’ve been accepted into the community), take along a small present of flowers, a plant or chocolates.

When saying goodbye, it’s a formal custom to shake hands again.

In an office, everyone shakes hands with everyone else on arrival at work and when they depart.

When you’re introduced to a French person, you should say ‘good day, Sir/Madam’ ( bonjour madame/ monsieur) and shake hands (a single pump is enough – neither limp nor knuckle-crushing).

Salut (hi or hello) is used only among close friends and young people.

When conversing, even in the midst of a heated debate, avoid raising your voice, which is considered vulgar.