Thanks to the effort of JCICI going to the World Congress 2016 (shortly: Canada project team), JCIs were invited to visit the Thott Mansion, which houses the French Embassy. The mansion was built from 1638 to 1686 for the Danish naval officer Niels Juel. In the 18th century the mansion was sold to Otto Thott and stayed in his family until 1930 when it was sold to the French State and designated the French Embassy in Denmark.
Originally built in a Baroque Style and modernized throughout the years. So, Friday February 19, 2016 at 6 o’clock the doors of the French Embassy in Copenhagen opened to a multitude of JCIs, whom were anxious to enter the building. After going through a rigorous check-in procedure we were invited to follow the 1st Secretary Mr. Julien Paupert, whom kindly gave us a tour of the stunning salons and chambers of the mansion
The walls of the mansion are covered with tapestries that depict scenes from the stories of greatness of Emperor Napoleon. Some rooms are decorated with images that retain the memory of the ladies that once occupied the palace, one of them hunts the mansion says Mr. Paupert. Grandiose mirrors, chandeliers and chimneys are part of the luxurious décor of the salons. There is a Louis XVI style bed chamber, where prominent French guests can spend the night. The Embassy´s dinner parties are held in the dining room, here Mr. Paupert gave us a lesson about dinner etiquette.
Mr. Paupert told us that laying a table properly in France and in the UK is not entirely different. The basic principles remain the same: The table should be immaculately and even artistically laid, napkins should never be in paper, china has to be unblemished, chipped china is considered rude, candles are the rigueur in the evening but for lunch it would be too much and almost ridiculous.
The slight differences are in the way of placing cutlery. In France prongs should always be facing down. For two good reasons: first of all, it is said that blue-blooded people used to be afraid of prongs ever since the French Revolution. Who can blame them? It reminded them of the menacing forks of the “sans culottes”… Royalty was very afraid of bloodthirsty revolutionaries. This rule is also due to the location of their coat of arms, which in France were traditionally engraved on the back of the fork. In the UK, however, coats of arms were engraved on the front side, that’s why in order to show the coats to their guests prongs had to be facing up. These codes are still in practice today, so pay attention.
In France bread is sacred. And yet French people put it down directly on the table. In the UK it would be regarded as very bad manners. The table is usually laid with a bread plate. If in some cases, there is no side plate, then the bread is placed on the main plate never on the tablecloth. These small plates are also used as a cheese plate at the end of dinner. Traditionally in the UK port is served at the end of the dinner. Port is put on the table for guests to help themselves. Though it is true that today fewer people drink it, no formal dinner is really complete without it. On the contrary in France, port is served as an aperitif. Don’t be surprised!
Having a conversation with French and with English people is quite different. If a French person asks a British person for his opinion about a politician, the situation will be very awkward since in the UK politics is still slightly taboo. Philosophy is regarded as boring and stormy debates are to be avoided at all cost. And yet this is what the French love. In the same way, don’t contradict the other guests just for fun. It is not fun at all in the UK where conciliation is preferred to debates.
Punctuality is not regarded in the same way around the world. In France punctuality can be approximate, you could even hear about the ” quart d’heure de politesse” being 15 minutes late to be polite. The idea is to let the hosts finish preparing the party without rushing them. In the UK on the contrary punctuality is a golden rule. Some invitations even mention “8.00 for 8.30”. It means that the party or the dinner will begin precisely at 8.30 and that you are supposed to be there from 8.00. Being late in that case would be unforgivable.
So many rules to remember right? Mr. Paupert´s advice to JCIs is just to follow the well-known expression “when in Rome do what Romans do”. As you probably already know in JCI we have around 20 nationalities, so imagine if we had to learn each countries etiquette, wouldn´t it be fabulous? That’s why I hereby formally invite you to share your country´s code of social behavior. You just have to write an article about it, add some pictures and send it to the MIC team firstname.lastname@example.org, your article will be published right here on our JCICI blog. Go ahead and Do it!!!
Thank you to the Canada project team for arranging this great event and to the 1st secretary of the French Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark Mr. Julien Paupert for being such a gracious host.
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