I’ve been living in France for the past 3 weeks and one of the things I immediately noticed was how much the French LOVE their bread. They eat it at every meal - breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea (le goûter), apéritifs, dinner - and it’s no surprise because their bread really is THAT good. The most common being the typical baguette or le pain. But before you set off to France, here are some French rules for eating bread, along with other things to note about French people and their bread.

Put bread on the table

It may not seem the most hygienic but it is French etiquette to place bread on the table and not on your plate or on a napkin. Bread may be served on a bread basket but after taking piece, place it on the table. Fancier restaurants may have a little plate for your bread, but unless you’re always dining at upscale restaurants, leave it on the table.

French people don’t eat bread plain

Spread some butter, jam, chocolate spread, or even put in cheese (either spread it or cut a slice). Some even like to tear off bits of the bread and dip it in honey (you can do the same with jam and chocolate spread). French people often dine with other people (it is weird to dine alone), so bread is torn into bitesized pieces so one can both enjoy one's meal and converse at the same time - this is useful if you have a rendezvous with someone. 

Wipe your plate clean with bread

So you finish ordering at a restaurant in France and not long after they serve you your starters and a basket of bread that you didn’t order but you still assume it comes with the starters. Don’t finish all the bread up during your starter. An important French rule for eating bread is to follow is to leave some bread behind for your main meal so you can eat it during your meal, and also some bread to wipe your plate clean after eating. This is particular in restaurants as it’s good manners to leave behind a clean plate - it’s a good way of showing you enjoyed your meal.

Pain au Chocolat vs Chocolatine

Now this is a controversial topic for the French. A very important rule to follow when in France, is to as much as possible avoid the debate on whether bread with chocolate should be called "Pain au Chocolat" or "Chocolatine". But a tip if you’re ever confused which to use: Most of France prefer to use “Pain au Chocolat” but the south west in particular insist on “Chocolatine”. I’ve personally met Parisians who use Chocolatine but they’re a rare case. I say to avoid using these words as much as possible unless you’re ordering at a restaurant and it’s written on the menu “Pain au Chocolat” or “Chocolatine”.

Croissants are NOT bread

A little random but I think it’s good to know that in fact croissants are not bread - they’re pastries. You will find them at boulangeries (bakeries - usually for bread), but don’t describe croissants as bread to a French person, and most definitely never to a French foodie - they get quite defensive about it.

French toast is NOT French

Another French rule for eating bread, if you want French toast, order "pain perdu". French toast or "eggy toast" for some British people is not French, so if you're craving this in France, don't ask for a 'French toast', ask for a "pain perdu", or you can make them yourself.

So which are authentic French bread?

When you think of French bread you probably have an image of a baguette in your head. Often they are sliced or torn into smaller pieces to make them easier to eat. There are in fact several types, from the traditional one to "le bâtard" (literally translates to "bastard" because it is considered inferior to the original). 

Another baguette-like bread is the Ficelle, but you're more likely to find these served at formal or business meals. It is skinnier and longer, and often it is sprinkled with cheese or sesame seeds. 

Brioche is another popular bread. It is much lighter and sweeter than the other breads mentioned, but pairs perfectly with both savoury and sweet condiments or toppings. Although I insisted to never eat bread by itself, brioche can be an exception because of how sweet it already is. 

If ever you visit France, I highly recommend for you to try their bread. Baked daily with fresh ingredients, there are plenty of choices of bread available and many ways to eat the delicacy. Personally I enjoy it with jam, butter and honey, but you should also to try it with French cheese - there are many to choose from but camembert and comté are popular picks. And if ever you eat bread at France, don't forget the few rules of eating bread so as to appear more French.