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What kind of gift should I give if I'm invited to a party in France?

The Local France
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What kind of gift should I give if I'm invited to a party in France?

If you're invited round to a French person's house it's polite to bring a little gift - but what is considered appropriate?


Question: I am British but have been living in France for quite some time. My go-to gift in most social situations is a bottle of wine but it seems that a lot of French people don't do that and some look a little puzzled when I offer one. What would you suggest I should offer instead? 

The kind of gift you choose to give someone in France really depends on the context and of course there are no hard-and-fast rules. There are, however, some guidelines on gift-giving.

It's not usual to arrive avec les mains vides (empty-handed) at someone's house if you have been invited.

The idea of wine as a gift will vary depending on where you are and your age.

If you're going to a student party then bringing your own booze is definitely the norm and younger French people in general do sometimes bring wine to parties. However this is not the tradition among older generations, especially among the more well-off or socially conservative.

The reason for this is that if you are going to someone's house for dinner, they will likely have already chosen wines that will pair well with what you are eating.

There's also the theory that gifting a bottle of wine can give the impression that you don't trust the host's selection.

However, as we mentioned this is changing, especially among younger people.

But if you'd rather not risk it, here are some alternative gift options;



Flowers or plants are a strong gift option in France. This partly explains why French florists generally remain open on a Sunday even when many other businesses are closed (and in fact many open in the morning on Christmas Day).

There are a couple of things to be aware of though. Some French people believe that bouquets should always contain an off number of flowers - for good luck. 

Certain types of flowers carry special symbolism: white flowers are often given at weddings (except for chrysanthemums and lilies which are generally used at funerals) and red roses are seen as a romantic gift. 

A plant in a pot is a popular housewarming gift, while the red-leafed poinsettia is often given as a gift at Christmas. 

If you want to think a little outside the box and go for an alternative, you could always get a cactus - they are not particularly French but are durable and can survive without a lot of sunlight or attention. 


Chocolate was thought to have first arrived in France in the 17th Century, when it was presented as a gift to King Louis XIII. 

Since then, it has remained a safe bet as far as gift giving is concerned. 

Even if France is not as well known as neighbours like Belgium and Switzerland when it comes to the manufacturing of high-quality chocolate, most French cities have a range of decent chocolatiers to choose from.

It is probably best going for something in the mid to high range, even if the French really love Nutella



The other thing that generally opens on a Sunday, even in small towns, is the pâtisserie.

If you have been invited for lunch at the home of someone you know well, you could offer in advance to pick up a dessert at the pâtisserie, usually one of the delicious large family-sized tarts or cakes that you will see in the window.

If you know the person less well, or if they already have dessert in hand, you could pop into the pâtisserie anyway and pick up a box of macarons. Almost all pâtisseries sell these, often in a gift box, and it's a classic gift to bring to someone's home (unless the person you are visiting is diabetic or has a nut allergy).


As previously mentioned, wine is generally a no-no. But there are a couple of exceptions - a sweet dessert wine can go down a treat. Bringing a bottle of Monbazillac or Sauternes will not be viewed as a slight on the host's wine-food pairing. 

Alternatively, a bottle of something bubbly (Crémant or Champagne) or a high-quality liqueur that can be served as an apéritif or digestif are seen as appropriate gifts - for adults. 

Other gifts 

These are the classics, but there are loads of other options too, which very much depend on who you plan to give your gift to. 

As in any country, it's a question of knowing the interests of the recipient and getting them something that you think they will like. 

As a big present - for a birthday of a close friend or family member - you could always consider offering an experience rather than a physical gift. Companies like Wonderbox are incredibly popular in France and can be used to organise a massage, getaway, cultural experience or sporting activity for the recipient.

Special presents for close friends are always good but if you're in a situation such as a family Christmas where you're buying gifts for lots of people, there is no need to spend a fortune. French Christmas gifts tend to focus on children, with adults swapping smaller tokens of affection. 


What else do I need to know about gifting in France? 

For a nation of writers and poets, it can be surprising to realise that the French generally don't send cards to each other - whether for birthdays, religious holidays or anything else. If you receive a gift though, it is considered polite to write a thank you note. 

The French are pretty elegant when it comes to gift giving so it is worth wrapping any present nicely (or ask the shop to do it for you, most shops that sell popular gift-items will ask when you pay whether it's a gift, and if so wrap it up nicely for you with some ribbon).

Finally, if you are lucky enough to receive a gift in France it is considered rude not to open it straight away or to take it home and open it later. So get ripping! 


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Anonymous 2022/07/22 17:25
Same in Bordeaux, I've been here since 1969 and almost all of my friends (98% being French) always bring a bottle of wine. The only real no no are chrysanthemums which are only for funerals.
Anonymous 2022/03/30 10:17
Totally disagree about bringing wine as a “no-no” to a dinner party. Maybe it’s a Lyon thing, but it is in fact the default offering in this city (at least since year 2000, and probably a lot longer than that).

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