The French Way
So you're planning a trip to France and you've heard about all the restaurants there and you want to make sure that you get the most out of the experience. As a fluent French speaker who has spent quite a bit of time in France including several visits to restaurants in France, here are some tips about how you can make the most of your restaurant visit:
1. Plan ahead for your trip. Have a good idea of how much you are planning to spend and how long you plan to stay there. French restaurants can be quite pricey so it helps to know the price range of the restaurant before going there. You can find information about most restaurants either online or from a guidebook. The French also spend quite a bit more time eating than Americans and so you need to be sure to allow for enough time. It is not uncommon for a typical French three course meal to take three hours.
2. Be aware that if you are taking children at most restaurants the other patrons will have less tolerance for noise from them than you would find in America so it is crucial to train your children in advance of your restaurant visit. Dogs however are very much loved by the French and are welcome in most restaurants.
3. Before choosing a restaurant, if you are not familiar with French food you should look at the menu in advance. This is important because certain items of French food are quite different from American food and all French chefs take extreme pride in their cooking and in your enjoyment of it. Furthermore you will be expected to eat all of your food or you will be viewed as rude and if you do not enjoy your food you will have wasted time and money along with leaving a bad impression.
4. Study up on your French manners. The French eat their meals differently than Americans and it is important to be aware of the differences. For example, coffee is served only with dessert and they will not serve it to you before. Also you are expected to eat cheese with your dessert. The French also use their bread to clean their plate and they put their elbows on the table. These actions are completely normal and are not considered rude.
5. Learn enough French to understand the menu as well as some basic expressions. Although many waiters and chefs speak at least a little bit of English, they will greatly appreciate your efforts to learn their language and it will make it much easier for you to understand what you are ordering before it arrives at your table and you are surprised.
6. If you have never eaten in a restaurant in France before, you may want to consider making your first visit a trip to a cafe or a less formal restaurant rather than a formal one and work your way up.
Follow these tips and you will enjoy your French restaurant experience. Bon Appetite!