University of Wisconsin–Madison

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My First Restaurant Meal in France

Our trip to France has started well, and it amazes me how many things we have learned in just 2 days. One in particular is the rules to eating at French restaurants. So in gastronomic interests, I thought I would share what I learned.

  1. Dinner does not start until 7:00 or 8:00 pm. When we were looking for a restaurant at 6:00pm, there were hardly any places open or people in them. Lack of people does not mean it’s a bad place, but that you are too hungry too early.
  2. Smoking is still very legal in public places in France, so one can find many restaurants with people smoking at tables outside.
  3. When the wait staff brings out bread as an appetizer, you do not get plate and you eat it with your hands. At this particular restaurant, we had olive oil and vinaigrette in spray bottles.2015-01-04 19.02.43
  4. Water also comes in a bottle for you to pour into glasses, and it is rarely free.
  5. Meals at restaurants last much longer in France—like hours longer. The wait staff is in no hurry to bring the food, and customers are in no hurry to get it. Even after we finished our meals, we sat and talked long past what is appropriate in American restaurants.
  6. Because dinner is so leisurely, it is not uncommon to ask the wait staff for the check instead of them coming and asking if you are ready to pay. Once you get the wait staff’s attention, just ask for, “L’addition s’il vous plaît.”
  7. Apparently leaving tips is not as common in France. If one decides to leave a tip, it is not more than 10 percent. Still clinging to home, we couldn’t help but leave something for the waiter.
  8. Finally, and maybe sadly, to-go boxes are not as popular in France. Historically it was not “classy” to ask for a to-go box for left-over’s, and it is just starting to become more acceptable. However it seems that French restaurants do a better job at portioning the meal sizes so there is not much to take home.

I am looking forward to what else we will learn about food, culture, classes, and anything else that comes along.
Bon appétit and À bientôt!

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