When can you drink alcohol in France?

Consumption of alcohol has a lot unwritten rules which is not always obvious. And it’s important that you don’t commit a cultural blunder because wine is at the heart of the French culture.

The problem is that France is “The” country of good wine and you may think that one can drink it at any time of the day.

But that’s not at all true! If you open a bottle of wine at 16hrs, the children’s tea time, you will be considered to be a weird foreigner or a total alcoholic!

Or perhaps, you are stressed out when you invite the French over for a meal.

The golden rule is : Wine accompanies the meal, so never serve wine otherwise.

You can drink a glass of wine for lunch and for dinner. Since wine is not associated with getting inebriation, you can drink moderately without the fear of being taken for a drunkard.

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L’alcool est plein de règles non-écrites pas du tout évidentes. Et il est important de ne pas faire de boulette culturelle. Car le vin est au centre de la culture française.

Le problème, c’est que la France est « le » pays du bon vin et vous pensez vite que vous pouvez le boire n’importe quand.

Et en fait pas du tout ! Vous pouvez vite passer pour une étrangère maladroite voire bizarre voire carrément alcoolique en ouvrant une bouteille à 16h, l’heure du goûter des enfants !

Du coup, vous stressez quand vous invitez des Français !

La règle d’or : le vin est associé à la nourriture alors n’ouvrez jamais une bouteille hors du repas.

Par contre, vous pouvez boire un verre de vin au déjeuner et au dîner. Comme le vin n’est pas associé à l’ivresse, vous pouvez boire modérément sans risquer de passer pour une ivrogne.

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During lunch at your place, you can suggest a wine to accompany the meal :

Tu veux un petit verre de vin pour accompagner ça?

Would you like some wine to accompany that ?

Ça te dit un petit verre de blanc/rouge ?

Would you like to have a glass of white/ red wine?

On se débouche une bouteille ?

Should we open a bottle of wine?

At the restaurant, you can tell the waiter:

Je vais prendre un verre de rouge pour aller avec.

I’ll have a glass of red wine to go with this.

You can also share « une bouteille » (a bottle), « un demi » (half-liter) or « un pichet ».

In the evening, after 6PM, during an informal event, you can offer a beer. Even after 6PM. Even if there is no dinner.

For example: If you are with couple of friends chilling out on the couch and chatting , but not if you are meeting your mother-in –law for the first time!

Then, you can drink some alcohol (or some juice) as an aperitif. But you can’t serve “table wine.”

And when you open a bottle of wine for a meal, you serve it after saying,

Du vin ?

Care for some wine?

Je te sers ?

Can I serve you?

Warning : Don’t force drinks on your guests who will be driving. They will often say:

Non merci, je conduis.

No thanks, I’m driving.

Un fond seulement, c’est moi qui conduis.

Just a little, I’m driving.


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