Morgan Munyan is a student at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and is a former ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Lille, France.
When it comes to ordering food in a foreign language, challenges, mistakes, and misunderstandings abound. However, with a few key words and phrases, confusing restaurant situations can be avoided and eating out in France can be just as enjoyable as it is at home. Here are a few words and phrases that I wish I knew before my first time out to eat in France:
And how would you like that cooked?
One of my most awkward, confusing restaurants moments in France happened at an American Diner while ordering burgers. The waiter asked us how we would like our burgers cooked, but we did not know how to respond in French. In French “bleu” is extremely rare, “saignant” is rare, “à point” is perfectly cooked, “entre à point et bien cuit” is medium rare, “bien cuit” is well done, and “très bien cuit” is very well done.
I have noticed that meal times in France are significantly longer than in the United States, and oftentimes the majority of my meals out has been spent waiting for the check. So, if you are a busy American in France, “l’addition”, or the check, is a useful word to know. One can politely ask the server for the check by saying, “l’addition, s’il vous plait?”
I have noticed that at French restaurants beverages are usually served without ice. Therefore, it is important to know how to ask for ice if you prefer an ice-cold beverage with your meal. To ask for a glass of ice in French one would say, “est-ce que je pourrais avoir un verre de glaçons s’il vous plait?”
One must be careful when ordering water in France. If one asks for water in a French restaurant, the waiter might bring a bottle of water to the table, and it might not be free. If you want to avoid the extra charge ask for “un verre d’eau”, or tap water, at a restaurant. You may also have to ask for ice in this case!
The Other Baguettes
One important lesson that I have learned in France is that many words have more than one meaning. One word in particular that has multiple meanings is the word “baguette”. So, if you are in a Japanese restaurant in France and the waiter asks you if you would like “des baguettes” he is not offering you a long loaf of bread. Instead, the waiter is asking if you would like some chopsticks.
Take out, anyone?
At some cafes and restaurants one might have the option to order his food to go. In this case one should know that the word, “emporter” means, “take out” in French. So if you want to order something to go, order it “à emporter”. Some restaurants even offer cheaper prices for takeout items so make sure to look out for the “prix à emporter” in the menu!
Bowl = Scoop
Finally, the ice cream shops here serve many unique flavors that I have never seen in the United States, such as Pear and Kinder Bueno Bar. However, don’t make the mistake of ordering a bowl of ice cream! In French the word for bowl is “boule”, so it would make sense that if one wanted a bowl of ice cream she would ask for “un boule de glace”. However, “boule” also means scoop, so you might end up with a cone instead. Therefore, if you would like to order a bowl of ice cream, ask for a cup by saying “je voudrais un coupe de glace s’il vous plait.”
The world awaits…discover it.