In this tale, the French shine and the Scottish, pale in a comparison of good manners...
“A number of yours ago two Scotch ladies paid a visit to Paris, accompanied by their brother whose business let him to go thither every year. He was slightly acquainted with several Parisian families, but, not speaking French fluently, he had little domestic intercourse with them. The two Misses D––– , on their arrival, expected that their brother's acquaintances would call on them, as they had been made aware of their arrival; but not a soul came near them. They did not know that in France the etiquette is for the stranger to call first—precisely the reverse of what is the practice in England; besides which, they were ignorant of the fact that the French do not cultivate the acquaintance of foreigners, rarely giving them invitations to their houses.
“Receiving no attentions, the ladies found Paris to be rather dull, their only amusement being sight-seeing. One day, walking with their brother in the Champs-Élysées be introduced them to a lady whom they chanced to meet. Taking pity on their isolation, she invited them to dine with her on the following day. Here was something good at last. The invitation was accepted. Next day they took care to lie in good time, equipped in their best, in low, pink silk dresses, short sleeves, and white satin shoes, to the great astonishment of their hostess, who took it for granted that they were going to a ball afterward. They were equally surprised to find her in the same high dark silk which she had worn when out walking.
“Dinner was served, and commenced with the national pot au feu (soup) and bouilli (the beef from which the soup is made), and which the lady carved in shapeless lumps, not in thin slices, as in England; stewed beef with macaroni, vol au vent, fricandeau, and roast turkey followed in quick succession. The lady carved small pieces of each dish, and put them 0n a plate, which was handed round to each guest to help themselves. The Scotch ladies, accustomed to eating potatoes with every dish, were puzzled to find none forthcoming. After the meat came a dish of green peas and salad. The French use the same knife and fork for every dish and keep them when the plates are changed; and the Misses D—– were horrified to see that the servants who took their plates coolly put their knife and fork on the cloth beside them, and did not give them a clean one until the dessert was served.
“They were greatly perplexed by the variety of dishes served, the absence of potatoes and the arrival of green peas after the meat had been taken away! The dinner was good, but the oddity of the arrangement was incomprehensible. It was a violation of all ordinary conceptions. After dinner the gentlemen led the ladies back to the drawing-room, and cafe noir was served. Strong black coffee, without milk or cream, was not very palatable to the Scotch ladies, though they found the liqueurs which succeeded it —creme de moka and creme de vanille — excellent. After sitting chatting for about half an hour, the hostess astonished the Misses by announcing her intention of going for a walk, it being summer, and the days long; and, said she, looking hesitatingly at the evening costumes of her visitors: ‘As I presume you are going to a soiree, I am sorry I cannot have the pleasure of your company.’
“The Scotch ladies were too shy, and too little acquainted to converse in French to ask for explanations, but they thought the lady very rude to turn them out of her house in this cool way; they had not ordered their carriage until half-past ten, so they begged her to allow her servant to fetch one for them, and returned to their hotel, marvelling at the unmannerly impudence of French ladies. They did not know that a casual invitation to dinner does not necessarily imply staying the evening; and no French lady would wear a low dress for even after a ceremonious dinner-party. Full-dress is only de rigueur for a ball or a very large soiree, and then only for young girls. Ladies dress more according to their ago in France than in England; and you never see old, or even middle-aged ladies dressed like young ones; or, if you do, you may be sure that they are not French.” – The Mariposa Gazette, 1875
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia