This blog post was updated on October 22, 2018.
Dining out at a nice restaurant in Paris is something everyone should experience. Even though most Parisian waiters a well acquainted with the dining habits of American tourists, it’s important to remain aware and respectful of French dining norms and etiquette. Here are some things to keep in mind:
• Take your time. In France, meals are considered an “event,” and something to be savored. Although there are plenty of places to get “fast food” in France, don’t expect to be served a quick “in and out” meal in a restaurant. In most restaurants, you should count on an hour to an hour and a half for lunch and two to three hours for dinner.
• Be aware of meal times. In France, lunch is normally served from 12-2. Most restaurants don’t open until 7:00 to 7:30 pm for dinner and won’t get crowded until 8:00 or 8:30, the time when most Parisians dine.
• Communicate (politely) with your server. When your server comes to the table, he or she will greet you. Greet him or her in return (a simple “bonjour” will do). When he or she brings you things, thank your server by saying “merci.”
• Paying the bill. At the end of the meal, French waiters don’t bring the check until you ask for it. You can say “l’addition, s’il vous plait,” or gesture for the check—make the motion of writing out a check in the air. Be prepared for the bill to be a bit more than you anticipated. The TVA (luxury tax that is applied to dining out is 19%.
• Tips on tipping. By law, a service charge is included in all restaurants bills. Also, most waiters in France are salaried (unlike most American waiters who work for minimum wage. French waiters also have health care, paid vacations, and retirement benefits— the service charge is used to cover these salaries and benefits. Since gratuity is included in your bill, you are not expected to leave a tip. However, if the service was particularly good, it is customary to leave a few Euros.
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