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Follow These Simple Language Tips to Save Money When Dining Out in France

France Languages Food + Drink
by Morgane Croissant Aug 24, 2022

If there’s one thing that all tourists want to do when traveling in France, it’s to eat the renowned, elegant food and try the celebrated wines. But it often doesn’t come cheap. Thankfully, there are a couple of tricks for all restaurant goers to save some of their hard-earned money while wining and dining in France: Learn how to ask for the free stuff and avoid certain surcharges.

How to ask for tap water in French

Don’t order water from the menu — you’re wasting your money. In France, tap water is the most controlled food, and the Ministry of Health and Prevention draws out a thorough report every year on the quality of the water in every French town. French tap water is even praised as being safer to drink than bottled water, as well as 100 times more economical and obviously more environmentally friendly.

But to get tap water instead of the expensive bottled stuff, you need to know how to ask: “Et une carafe d’eau s’il vous plaît” at the end of your order will get you a free pitcher of tap water. To ask for more, just say “Est-ce qu’on pourrait avoir une autre carafe s’il vous plaît?” (May we have one more pitcher, please?), or “Est-ce qu’on peut avoir plus d’eau, s’il vous plaît?” (May we have more water, please?). It’s that simple. And don’t be shy to ask, restaurants in France must provide free water to clients who ordered a meal, it’s the law. Knowing all that, remember that in France there’s a saying that goes “l’eau, ça fait rouiller”, meaning “water makes you rust,” so don’t abuse the stuff.

How to ask for bread in French

Usually your meal will come with a little basket of freshly cut bread. That bread is included in the price of your meal, much like the tap water and the service, and should never appear on your final bill. If the wait staff didn’t bring bread to your table, ask for it. “Est-ce qu’on pourrait avoir du pain, s’il vous plaît?” (May we have some bread, please?) and you shall receive it. If you want more, again, just ask for it: “Est-ce qu’on pourrait avoir plus de pain, s’il vous plaît?” (May we have more bread, please?). Don’t be shy to ask for bread twice or more. It is entirely normal to eat bread throughout the meal and nobody will think you’re abusing the generosity of the restaurateur.

Know where to sit to pay less

What may come as a surprise to many, sitting outside at French cafés or restaurants can cost more than sitting inside. It’s called a “droit de terrace” (patio fee) and while not extremely pricey (it often amounts to a couple of dollars) it’s often still noticeable when the bill comes. Patio fees are the results of patio taxes imposed on restaurant and café owners in many towns and cities, including Paris. Be aware of this fee and sit inside if you don’t want to have to pay for it.

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