Has anyone else here with children who attend ecoles publiques noticed if their children's manners at table have deteriorated since they've come here?
Yes, Cobweb absolutely agree! The table manners of my two children (14 & 8) have deteriorated rapidly since moving here. The problem is that they see both other children and a number of adults eating with mouths wide open!
Whilst they both enjoy a very good diet etc., the habit of eating with mouths wide open seems to be the thing at the moment! I'm sorry, but I hate to see that, as I was always brought up (oh no, I sound like my mum now!) to eat with my mouth closed. Other than that, one thing that is lovely here is the fact that both children have a lot of respect for older people. They've always been polite with other people, but even more so now. In fact, I think they spend more time with our elderly neighbours than us, but our neighbours think its marvellous and if the kids don't go over to see them, they ask us to send them over just to say hello. So in more than one respect, some manners have changed for the better, but table manners are a bit of a bugbear at the moment.
Don't forget that table manners are different. For example, good French manners say that you must not eat your salad using a knife - you should use a piece of bread to push the salad on to your fork. Bread is supposed to be torn and eaten a bit at a time. Children must not put their hands on their laps - they should rest their wrists on the table. Even laying a table is different (the forks should be placed points downwards).
So, your children may be losing English manners, but they are gaining French manners! (Apart from eating with mouths open, which is not good manners for the French either - maybe their noses are blocked!?)
If my two could stop talking at the table for a couple of seconds during meals I'm sure they would keep their mouths shut while they were eating !!!!
My French MIL told me that one can use a knife to eat salad, but that one was never supposed to cut the salad, only use the knife to fold it over before piercing it with a fork. I've also read this in an etiquette book.
Also, it's not just children that shouldn't put their hands in their lap - this applies to everyone and dates back to the time of kings and queens when all hands had to be on the table to prevent any hankypanky from going on!!!
And I've never seen anyone place the forks points downward, so maybe the things you've mentioned are particular to your family, orme??
The eating with their mouth open thing really bothers me too (adults and children alike), though so does the whole coughing/sneezing without covering their mouth.
I am afraid a dterioration of table manners is one of the things that happens in secondary schools particularly, be it in France or England. Children are encouraged to eat very quickly as there may be a shift system or activity they are to partake in after eating has finished. Maybe you could adopt the approach...this is how we do it at home and out..idea.
In my secondary school in England a class of fifteen year olds had no idea how to lay the table for the school christmas dinner, and later when fast food came in were required to eat yogurt with a fork, there being no spoons.....when I questioned this was told I was far too middle class!!!
According to my mother-in-law, the not eating salad with a knife dates from when knives were not made of stainless steel. The vinegar in the dressing damaged the metal, and that's where the 'rule' comes from. Someone told me that eating eggs with knives is bad manners in Spain for a similar reason.
The forks pointing downwards (it's difficult to describe - it just means turning the fork over, not actually changing it so that the mouthpiece is pointing towards the person) is taught in all good Ecoles Hotelières, but I don't suppose it's the sort of thing families worry about too much every day. We have one or two family members in the hotel industry, so maybe some of the etiquette concerns restaurants in Versailles more than traditional Breton families. As MOH grew up in Paris, there may be differences - France being France, there are probably different rules of etiquette for each region!
Our boy is always complaining about the table manners of the kids at his school! Apparently they eat with their mouths wide open so everyone can enjoy their masticatation.
Provided the children have a sense of occasion at the table when needed, meal times should be a relaxed affair. Maybe mags is right to have different approaches for different places.
Trouble is, it isn't easy at school for non teaching staff to have to correct table manners as well as serve up the food and keep an eye on every child's needs, especially when a pupil is desperate to laugh and chat with a friend he hasn't spoken to all morning! Within reason, it's more important to make mealtimes a good social occasion than a chore.
James & Judith ~ resident 35 (between Dol and Combourg)
I was thinking more of forks being used in right hand, meat having been cut up first with fork in left, if it's cut up at all! And the position of the hand on the knife and fork seems to be different here, they being held more as one would hold a pencil, ie hand underneath rather than over the top.
We feel you've just described the very manners we left behind in Blighty.
cobweb - what you have just described "forks being used in right hand, meat having been cut up first with fork in left, if it's cut up at all! And the position of the hand on the knife and fork seems to be different here, they being held more as one would hold a pencil, ie hand underneath rather than over the top." are how children are TAUGHT to eat here. And so it is considered good manners. It isn't that (your) children's manners have deteriorated, just that they have changed. For example, the English way of eating soup is considered rude, as is the English way of keeping arms/elbows out of sight. Did you know you should peel prawns/seafood with a knife and fork for example in France? And NEVER pick up bones? Potatoes should never have their skin on them (unless they are jacket potatoes). But no, our girl has never complained about bad table manners at her school, and I haven't noticed French kids eating with their mouth open any more than English kids do. Generally speaking I think French children are better behaved during mealtimes than English childern because they eat as part of a family unit all the time. None of this finger food/children's food nonsense....if lunch is coq au vin, then that's what the children get too! JMO though.
I agree my girls manners have changed since being here, but thats what it is, they havent deteriorated they have changed, as in France their manners are so different to what we know in England. I must admit we talk more up the table now than we did, but just so wish my youngest would actually take a breath.
The other thing that has changed so much is the fact that my youngest would not eat anything unless it resembled a chip or a chicken nuggett and wouldnt even contemplate eating a sandwich and packed lunch in england was an absolute nightmare, but since being here (it took about 2 months, and we have been here for 3 1/2 years now) she eats the majority of things put in front of her, and i have the school dinners here to thank for that. She has turned from a fussy eater to someone that eats most things.
It's not whether French or English are correct. The manners are correct for the country. In China or Saudi Arabia burping would be perfectly OK at table (or so I'm told). Not in Europe. Again, different doesn't mean wrong.
BikerG is right (except MOH says you can pick up anything which flies, eg a piece of chicken), especially about how they hold their knives - like a pencil, and it is good manners to do that here. And, once children get past the baby stage, they eat like the adults. Just out of interest, I did a 'best and worst' food survey with my primary class two weeks ago and all but one dislike burgers and coke. Most love fish and cheese and fruit got a big hands up.
I don't know who you eat with, eden, but I've never noticed French people eating without knives and forks (except for the obvious things like radishes, bread etc) - now, that would be interesting to see how they tackled the coq au vin!
That's funny orme, because my primary kids all stated "pizza, coke, hamburgers, fries, etc" as their favorite foods - fish and eggs were the least liked, and fruits and veggies fell somewhere in between.
well Samantha - my little girl wouldn't know what a hamburger or fry was (she would understand beefburger and chips or frites though...)!! She is more French than English I s'pose....her current top 10 fave foods are (we do food lists to decide menus with her and stuff) :
pasta, grated carrots, camembert (with bread), comté (or gruyere) (grated - and served on above pasta) cheese, tomato sauce (but not the stuff that comes out of a bottle (she thinks this is bleurgh) the sauce that is hot and made in a pan from real tomatoes), anything spicy (chorizo, pepperami, chillies), fresh salmon, smoked salmon, olives and finally cucumber.
She is 7. I'll do a straw poll of her mates when I go to pick her up from the school bus. There aren't any English kids - only French, so it will be a 100% French 7 year old poll. I'll ask each child's top 3 foods and post the results later. Not very representative but which polls are!!
I must admit I was rather surprised at the results. Pizzas and pasta all got the thumbs up, but the thing that surprised me most was that water was 100% on the best list!
I've just dug out the results of the 'sondage'. They all also liked ice-cream (surprise, surprise), chocolate, salad and bread. 1 child liked lemons .... maybe it's the sea air. None liked coffee.
MadDog, I was talking about French children, not British children - the results I gave came from an English lesson I did on "I like, I don't like" with CM1 and CM2 classes. I'd forgotten about chocolate and ice cream - those were also high up on the list of favorites as well.
ok - here goes with the results. There were 27 children - all CE1, CE2 and CM2 (so 7-10 year old for anyone unfamiliar with the French ed system). I basically asked them their top 3 foods - sweet or savoury - and then did a little chart (how sad is that?!!) the results of their top 10 are below!
Pasta (when questioned they said coquillettes, macaroni,squiggly pasta or spaghetti) - with ham or cheese
Egg and tomato salad
Mussels in sauce (!!)
Strawberry and chocolate ice cream
Croissants or Brioche with Nutella
Obviously there are lots of other things mentioned, but these were their top 10.
well orme, I thought this posting was about Childrens table manners and whether or not they had changed since arriving in France.... yes my childrens' have they try to eat meals with their fingers on occasions, and actually having had french children around for tea, you would be amazed how apt they are at eating beef stew with their fingers!!!!
Speak as you find!!
Regarding table manners, I feel that we may well be only family left in the world who uses napkins at meal times. At ecole we have to provide napkins for use at lunchtime , however I am told by our children that they are not used. Certainly the numerous children who visit for meals have to be reminded to use their napkins and a great many of the English adults leave them folded on the table untouched. Our French guests always use them. And what ever happened to waiting until everyone is served before starting to eat!
I have not seen eating with open mouths here or in the Uk, except with very young children who havent been taught not to do it , but it sounds disgusting! It did however take me a while to get used to hanging on to ones cutlery for the main course having used it for entree! Manners differ and I suppose all one can do is to try and adapt to the local standards and fit in, however I must say that as with most things I suspect Brittany may not be typical of the rest of France. French friends from Avingnon and Paris have very different table manners to local friends here. I don't think either is better than the others but some are more akin to those I grew up with so to me are far more acceptable to me!!