Sitting outside a café sipping a coffee and watching the world go by is part of daily life in France. Manners and etiquette are important here so here’s a few tips to help keep you out of hot water!
As you arrive always greet the Monsieur, Madame or Mademoiselle behind the bar with a bonjour and a general bonjour to everyone in the room. This is the case, especially in rural France when you enter a shop, post office, doctor.. anywhere…obviously not in a large supermarché and it maybe a bit different in Paris and large towns! If you decide to sit on the terrace, find a seat and the waiter will come to you.
Always be polite in France. Manners count for a lot and a little politeness goes a long way. No shouting or calling across the café to gain the attention of the waiter. Remember merci and s’il vous plait!
Did you know the cost of your coffee depends on where you sit? Outside on the terrace is always more expensive but sitting up at the bar is the cheapest and you can enjoy the atmosphere.
If you ask for ‘un café s’il vous plait’ the waiter will bring you a café noir or café express in a small expresso sized cup. It will be served with sugar cubes or sugar wraps on the saucer and a tiny biscuit or a chocolate covered almond. The other popular coffee, mostly drunk at breakfast time is a café crème or café au lait with hot milk, served in a larger cup.
A custom I love is that if the café does not serve croissants or gateaux you can buy your cakes elsewhere and eat them in the café. I would always check first out of politeness. We did this recently, before we opened our big box of cakes on the table and the waitress even provided serviettes, plates and knives!!
Bottled water can be expensive and I am happy to drink Eau du robinet (tap water). If you ask for a verre or pitcher d’eau du robinet you won’t be charged.
For a delicious treat, order a Café Gourmand, a petit café with a selection of bite sized desserts served alongside.
You are generally left alone to take your time to enjoy your coffee. Lots of cafés and bars, even in rural France have free Wi-Fi (internet). When you do decide that you want l‘addition, (the bill), the service charge is already included. You will see the words Servis Compris on the bill which means service is already included in the total to be paid.
A small extra tip is still a nice gesture to recognise good service as that will go directly to your waiter.
What have your experiences been like? I would love to know.
Please comment and share.