If you’re new to Paris, then everything can be sparkly, shiny and bright. At the same time, it can also be pretty confusing. From language barriers, to driving on the other side of the road (for me, anyway!) to greeting people (e.g. Comment Faire la Bise?), everything in France is different. However, different doesn’t necessarily have to mean difficult! This becomes especially apparent when ordering in a French restaurant. Been eyeing up that mouthwatering French dish for a while on Pinterest? Then here’s everything you need to know on how to order in a Parisian restaurant- (and how to manage it like a local):
Perceptions and Misconceptions
First things first: There seems to be a pretty common misconception that French people (especially Parisians) are rude! However, if there’s one thing that I’ve learned during my time living in France, this is definitely not the case. Sure, some people can be rude- but isn’t that the case back home too?
Learn some basic French
If there’s anyone who knows that your French doesn’t have to be perfect to order a meal in French, it’s me! My accent is so awful and I still manage it (just about)…
“So why learn some basic French?” “Doesn’t everyone, like, speak English?” I hear you say.
Well, would you enjoy it if someone came to your country and assumed that everyone spoke their language? No? Well it’s exactly the same in France. Learn a few basic phrases and you’re more than likely to make your waiter (or waitress) a lot happier- plus they’ll be happier to accommodate dietary requirements:
A coffee, please.: Un café, s’il vous plaît.
The bill, please!: L’addition, s’il vous plaît!
Do you speak English?: Parlez-vous Anglais?
Nowadays, it’s not at all unheard of to ask for special dietary requirements when ordering lunch/ dinner in a French restaurant. You can always call the restaurant in advance and, more often than not, they’ll be happy to accommodate your needs (I’ve done this plenty of times before with success!)
If you feel shy about doing this, there are plenty of restaurants in Paris to suit your needs; from vegan patisserie shops to gluten free cafés- there’s something for everyone. Just make sure you do your research beforehand so as to not be disappointed!
More likely than not, a basket of bread will arrive with your meal. This means that it’s intended to be eaten with your meal rather than before it. The bread is normally pretty fresh and won’t be served with butter or olive oil. As my boyfriend recently pointed out to me during lunch ‘sandwiches are not allowed‘. Yep, you’re meant to eat your bread plain!
It’s fairly normal to order a glass of wine (or two) with your meal- even at lunch time! Just remember, the French enjoy everything in moderation. It’s not unheard of for tourists to be thrown out of restaurants for being too drunk…
One of the most common mistakes that first time visitors to the city of lights make is that they order a bottle of water to go with their meal. Don’t be that tourist! Instead using the simple phrase ‘Une carafe d’eau, s’il vous plaît!‘ will ensure that you have plenty of free water to go with your meal.
It’s customary (but not mandatory) to take coffee at the end of your meal. And by the end of the meal, I mean after dessert! Of course, if you can’t drink coffee/ don’t like it, you shouldn’t feel obliged to order one. I’ve found most expressos in Paris range between €2/€4 and are the perfect way to finish a meal. Besides, it’s oh so Parisian to sit and sip a café while people watching from a terrace.
Paying & Tipping
Unlike back home, it’s important to remember that most restaurants, bars and cafés will have a minimum card spend (usually between 10 and 15 euro)- so definitely check before ordering that you have enough cash on you if you know that your order will be below the minimum!
Unlike in the U.K. or U.S.A, your bill won’t arrive at the end of the meal. Parisian meal times are all about being relaxed and paying the cheque is no exception. Instead, wait and ask politely for the bill when you’re ready to pay and leave.
In general, tips are included with your meal. ‘Tipping culture’ isn’t really a thing in France. However, an additional amount left in cash on the table at the end of your meal is obviously always appreciated!