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Is it rude to call a waiter in France?

In France, dining out is a huge part of the culture. Whether it’s a casual lunch with friends or a fancy dinner with family, the French take their food very seriously. And when it comes to ordering your meal, there are certain customs to follow. One of the most talked-about customs is whether or not it’s rude to call your waiter over to your table. For visitors to the country, this can be a confusing social etiquette issue. Is it considered impolite to flag down a waiter in France? Let’s explore this topic further.

What French Waiters Expect and How to Call Them

French culture is famous for its refined dining experience where meals last for hours, and waiters are attentive to every detail. As a traveler or tourist, you may wonder how to interact with restaurant staff without appearing rude or disrespectful. The French language has certain nuances and expressions that differ from English, so it’s essential to understand the etiquette of calling a waiter in France.

1. Know the French Terms for Waiter

Before you go to a restaurant in France, learn the appropriate French terms for waiter or server. The most common word for waiter is “garçon,” which means “boy” or “waiter.” However, this term can be seen as outdated and even rude in some situations. Instead, you can use “serveur” for a male waiter or “serveuse” for a female waiter. Another word used to summon the server is “Monsieur” or “Madame,” showing respect towards the waiter or waitress.

French Waiter in a Restaurant

2. Use Non-Verbal Signals

In France, calling a waiter verbally by yelling “Hey, you” or waving your hand is considered impolite. Instead, use non-verbal signals such as raising your hand with an open palm or a discreet nod to get the server’s attention.

3. Wait Patiently

The French dining culture is known for taking time to enjoy meals, and waitstaff are expected to be attentive to the customers. However, they will not interrupt your conversation or serve you too soon. Therefore, be patient and wait for the waiter to approach you.

4. Use Polite French Phrases

Using polite French phrases such as “S’il vous plaît” (please), “Merci” (thank you), and “Excusez-moi” (excuse me) can show respect towards the waiter. These phrases can be used when ordering or asking for the server’s attention.

5. Do Not Snap Your Fingers

Clicking fingers or snapping to get the server’s attention is considered rude in France. It may be seen as a sign of disrespect and lack of patience towards the waiter.

French Waiter and Customer

6. Use Eye Contact

Eye contact is an easy way to signal the waiter without calling their name. A quick glance at the waiter can let them know you need their attention.

7. Signal the Waiter Politely

When you need something while dining, such as more bread or water, signal the waiter politely using hand gestures. Patting your hand on the table or making circular movements with your hand are some nonverbal ways to communicate with the server.

8. Use “On S’amuse Bien” to Show Satisfaction

After the meal, it’s common to express satisfaction by saying “on s’amuse bien” (we had a good time in French). This phrase indicates that you enjoyed the meal and appreciate the service provided by the waiter.

9. Tip Appropriately

Tipping is not mandatory in France, as service charges are often included in the bill. However, if you were pleased with the service, leaving a tip is customary. The typical amount is around 10% of the bill.

10. Avoid Rushing the Meal

French dining culture values taking time to enjoy meals and the company of others. Rushing a meal or asking for the bill too soon can be seen as impolite behavior. Instead, relax and enjoy the experience.

Overall, understanding French culture and the etiquette of signaling a waiter can make dining much more enjoyable. Following these tips can help show respect towards the waiter and make the dining experience more pleasant for all involved!

The culture of dining in France

France is renowned for its cuisine and dining culture. It is a country where food and wine are taken seriously and dining out is an important part of socializing. French people have high expectations when it comes to dining, and they believe that the experience should be enjoyable and memorable. The way French people approach dining is very different from other cultures. The dining experience is seen as an art form, and every meal is an opportunity to indulge in one’s senses.

The importance of manners in France

Manners are considered very important in French culture, and this extends to the way people behave at restaurants. French people are known for being polite and courteous, and they expect the same from others. When dining out, it is important to be respectful, patient, and follow the French customs.

How to call a waiter in France

In France, calling a waiter is not as simple as just saying “waiter” or “excuse me.” There is a proper way to do it, and it is essential to know this to avoid offending anyone. The most common way to call a waiter in France is by saying, “s’il vous plaît” (please) or “monsieur” (Sir) or “madame” (Madam) which is a polite way to attract the attention of the server. You can say this quietly and make eye contact, or you can raise your hand slightly. It is essential to be polite and patient when trying to attract the attention of a server, as they are often busy attending to other customers.

Avoid snapping your fingers or raising your voice

In France, snapping your fingers or raising your voice to get a waiter’s attention is considered rude. This is because it is seen as aggressive and impolite. If you need the server’s attention, use one of the polite phrases mentioned above.

Be patient while waiting for your order

In France, dining is a leisurely affair, and French people don’t expect their food to arrive quickly. It is important to be patient and wait for your order, as rushing the kitchen is considered impolite. Enjoy your bread and your water while you wait for your order to arrive, and take your time.

How to signal that you are ready to order

When you are ready to place your order, you can signal to the server by placing your menu closed on the table, upside down. This indicates that you have made your choice and are ready to order. You can also make eye contact and ask the server politely if they are ready to take your order.

French restaurant etiquette

When dining out in France, it is essential to follow some basic restaurant etiquette. This includes waiting for everyone at the table to be served before starting to eat, using the correct utensils, and keeping your elbows off the table. It is also customary to tip between 5-10% in France. However, some restaurants may already include a service charge in the bill, so it is essential to check before adding the tip.

French language essentials for dining out

When dining out in France, it can be helpful to know some basic French phrases to communicate better with the server. This includes “l’addition, s’il vous plaît” (the bill, please), “je voudrais” (I would like), “à la carte” (from the menu), and “du vin rouge/blanc” (red/white wine).


In conclusion, calling a waiter in France is not rude, but it is essential to be polite and respectful. French people have high expectations when it comes to dining, and it is important to follow the proper etiquette. Use polite phrases, be patient, and follow the French customs. By doing so, you will have an enjoyable and memorable dining experience in France.

French restaurant

How to Politely Request Service from a Waiter in France

After learning about the cultural etiquette around calling a waiter in France, it’s vital to understand how to ask for service properly. Doing so will ensure that you don’t offend anyone and can receive attentive service. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Use Appropriate Phrasing

When attempting to get your waiter’s attention, make use of polite phrases and expressions like “Excuse me, sir/madam” or “Pardon me, could I please have…?”. French waiters are more inclined to respond favorably if you use good manners and show respect. Using simple phrases like “pourriez-vous m’aider s’il vous plaît” meaning “Could you please help me” or “je vous prie de m’excuser” meaning “I beg your pardon” can go a long way.

French waiter giving service

Patience is Key

Don’t snap your fingers or wave your hand to request the waiter’s attention, even if it seems like they’re not coming over soon enough. Wait your turn politely, and when they do come, politely ask for their attention. French dining culture is all about taking your time, and waiters often won’t rush over to your table until they sense that you are ready.

Be Open to the Waiter’s Suggestions

In France, the ordering process is appreciated more as a conversation than as a simple transaction. To that end, the waiter might suggest different dishes or drinks, based on your preferences. This is their way of showing that they care about your dining experience. Feel free to provide feedback or express your preferences, and the waiter will be happy to take care of you in the best way possible.

Waiter listening to customer in a restaurant

Understand Restaurant Etiquette

When dining in France, it’s important to understand some of the basic restaurant etiquette. For example, it’s common knowledge that once you have been handed the menu and placed your order, it’s not the waiter’s responsibility to hover around your table. Unlike some cultures, French waiters won’t interfere with your conversation or monitoring your glass by refilling it every time it’s near empty.

Do Don’t
Use polite phrases (e.g., excuse me, pardon me) Click your fingers
Wait patiently for the waiter to come over Shout out or whistle for the waiter’s attention
Respect the waiter’s suggestions Refuse the waiter’s suggestions without giving a reason
Know basic restaurant etiquette Overstay your welcome or linger at your table for too long

Tip Appropriately

While tipping is not a significant part of French dining culture, it is not uncommon to leave a small amount in appreciation of excellent service. Instead of rounding off your bill with a certain percentage, leave any small change or add a few euros to show your gratitude for excellent service. Tipping is entirely up to you, but always consider the quality of the service you received before deciding to tip or not.

French waiter receiving a tip

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Thanks for Reading!

Now you know that it’s not necessarily rude to call a waiter in France, but there are some cultural differences to keep in mind. French dining customs can be complex, but don’t let that intimidate you from trying out new dining experiences in France. Remember to keep a friendly and respectful attitude, and don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it. We hope you’ve found this article interesting and helpful, and we invite you to visit us again soon for more cultural insights and travel tips. Bon appétit!

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