How to Order in a French Cafe

Ordering food in a new place can be daunting, particularly if you don’t speak the language. There are the vocab words, the colloquialisms, and the etiquette all to be accounted for. And that doesn’t even include figuring out what you want to eat.

In this handy survival guide by American expat Jay Swanson, Swanson does the hard work of getting you in and out of a French café with your linguistic dignity still intact. From the first bonjour to the final, l’addition, s’il vous plaît, Swanson offers the inside scoop on what handy elementary school French words you should throw out of your vocabulary (lookin’ at you, garçon!). Unlike many language lessons which tend to be bound up in books, Swanson takes you on location, filming the menu as he goes through it, his food, and his pronunciation.


And if you’re daunted by the long list of coffee options in front of you, don’t worry. He’s got that covered too. So before you take that daring first step into Chez Quelqu’un, take a listen, and don’t forget les viennoiseries.

If you need a laugh before embarking into the very serious French café setting, check out this video on the differences between French and American waiters.