June 20, 2011
Dining in a restaurant in France is pretty much the same as in the US, or is it? Looks can be deceiving. In fact, eating out in France is quite different from the typical North American restaurant experience.
I often relive with humor a French family vacation filled with my family showing up for dinner at 7 pm famished (an ungodly late hour for a family used to eating at 5 pm) to find restaurants not yet open or the employees dining before their shift. I also remember often being the last to leave even though we were the first to arrive as we could not figure out how to get the check and pay (despite putting on coats, stacking plates and brandishing credit cards).
In France, as opposed to the US, you can’t just show up to a restaurant at any hour of the day or night expecting to be served. Meals occur at particular times; outside those given hours, you will be loathe to find anything except unappealing brasseries, shriveled sandwiches, and fast food. To spare you the hassle of some of my early experiences, here are a few tips on French restaurant etiquette:
Hours – French restaurants mostly follow the following schedule:
- Breakfast is not often eaten out in France (a quick coffee and croissant at the local café will do)
- Brunch is becoming more popular in Paris. Normal brunch hours are 11am-3pm.
- Lunch is 12-2pm with most Frenchies showing up at 1 (some restaurants serve till 3).
- Dinner is 8-10 pm. Some restaurants open at 7:30 and some serve until 11 pm or later.