Tipping In France and Paris

l'addition

One of the most confusing things for visitors to Paris is figuring out the tip system. Unlike the US where tips are expected (and considered part of the wages paid), in France by law a 15% service compris is always included in the price wherever you eat or drink. No matter what anyone says, a service charge is always included. Guidebooks often underscore this fact, reminding you that the service is included. But also they add that it’s okay to leave extra.

But Paris has many international visitors, and it’s pretty common to leave something after a bite to eat or drink (leaving a few coins, or some bills, is called the pourboire, which roughly means “for something to drink.”) But it’s never expected and is only given for good or attentive service, or at a place you habituate frequently.

Other circumstances where a tip is common: In restaurants if you have a baby or children that require special attention, if you don’t speak the language and the server is particularly patient and helpful, or if you stand up and spill red wine all over the place and broken a couple of glasses as well. (Not that I’ve ever done that…)

Although I have a few Parisian acquaintances that don’t leave anything on principal (reasoning that it is, after all, included), most I know do leave a little something. But if you go to a restaurant and they don’t return with your change when you leave money for the bill, that’s extremely bad form and I always say something. And in those cases, I don’t leave anything.

If you do want to leave something extra, don’t add it to your credit card slip since the waiter probably won’t get it. Instead, leave the coins in the tray where the check was presented or on the table.

Lastly: Don’t feel obligated to overtip. In all but the fanciest of restaurants, leaving more than 5-10% is generally not done, even though it may be customary and considered impolite to leave less than 15% in your country.

au boeuf couronne

So here’s a little guide based on my observations and experiences dining and getting around Paris:

Cafés

If you have a drink, although not necessary, often people leave the change. If the bill is 3.80€, you can leave 4€. 5€ (unless you’ve accidentally smashed the table in half or something) is excessive.

Simply round it up the nearest whole figure if you want. At the bar, if a coffee is 1.20€, you can leave an extra 10-20 centimes behind if you want.

Meals & Restaurants

In normal restaurants, including cafés, one can leave €1; for every €20. So if the check is €80, you can leave anywhere from €2-€4. Think of it as a gesture, not an obligation. Once again, it’s not necessary but is appreciated for good service. And I think this equation works out just about right.

In nicer restaurants, such as 3-start tables, where the service is exemplary, a tip of €20 is fine to leave. It’s not normal to tip the coat check person. When in doubt, look at French diners and see what they leave as a gratuity.

Coat Check

In simple restaurants, if the waiter grabs your coats and puts in on the hook, there’s no need to give anything. But in a nicer restaurant, especially if there’s a coat check, €1 per coat is expected.

Taxis

Like restaurants, tipping in a taxi isn’t necessary, although most of the time I give a little extra, roughly an extra 1-2€ in Paris no matter what the fare. If coming from the airport and the driver’s helped you with luggage and the like, 5% is fine to give him or her.

Conversely, if they take you on a tour of Paris, ie: the longest route possible, I don’t give them anything unless they were doing it to avoid traffic or a demonstration blocking the streets.

Concierges

If your concierge at the hotel goes out of their way to make you a host of restaurant reservations, especially at hard-to-get places, it’s a nice gesture to give them something for their efforts. While a box of chocolates or a bottle of good wine is welcome, a monetary gesture of gratitude is a good way to show your appreciation.

If they make a phone call or two to get you into a local bistro, it’s not necessary. If you give them a list of places that you’d like them to book you at, I do recommend a little something, especially if you plan to go back to that hotel. Trust me, they’ll remember you. And getting you into a nicer place that’s normally booked is quite a feat—depending on the level of hotel you’re staying at or restaurant you’ve requested, 5, 10, or 20€ is appreciated.

Hotel Porters

A tip of €1 per bag is appreciated, unless the bag is extra-heavy, in which case you can be more generous.

Theatres

And if you go to the theatre, it’s almost mandatory to tip the usher at least €1 per person for showing you to your seat.

Haircuts

A 10% gratuity is fine to give the person who cuts your hair.

Except for the woman who cut my hair when I first arrived in Paris years ago and I had to walk around the city looking like a sponge that got stuck in the garbage disposal for a couple of weeks until it grew out. She got a tip, but I didn’t go back.

(I hope she used the money to either improve her skills, or to head back to school to find another line of work. Boy, was that scary…)


Related Posts

Wikipedia‘s Guide To Tipping in France and elsewhere.

ParisMarais has a few tips

Magellin’s World Tipping Guide

Fodors’ Foodie Guide

About.com on Tipping in France

Heather’s notes at Secrets of Paris

Two Great Dining Guides to Paris

38 comments

  • tip… the *usher*??? Now that is something that boggles my mind, especially since I tend to think of ushers as volunteer “friends of the theater.” Is seating in French theater so complicated?

  • A service charge may ALWAYS be included, but I know very few establishments who actually share the charge out with their waitstaff….

  • It can be pretty intimidating when you don’t know exactly how things are done and you don’t want to offend anyone. This provides lots of good info David, thanks.

  • Thanks for this useful info! Other than the basic cafe/restaurant tipping- I have found it nearly impossible to find info on tipping for these other services provided!!

  • dddg: I’ve heard it’s because the ushers don’t get paid. Being a cultural rube, I’ve only been to the Olympia here in Paris. But everyone always tips the ushers.

    Adrian: I didn’t realize in France, it was meant to be shared. I thought people just got a standard wage.

    When Chez Panisse went to ‘service compris’ (in part, to equalize the pay between the kitchen and floor staff), the service charge on the bill was figured to be the amount that would be compensated to the staff in the form of higher wages, and wages were raised accordingly. If memory serves me, the waiters ended up making less, and the kitchen more.

    Terrie & Melange: It’s interesting, because if you ask French people if you should tip or not, they generally say, “It’s included…so you don’t have to.” But then they usually leave something anyways. It’s like an ‘unspoken’ topic. And especially vexing for us Americans, who feel funny leaving without a tip.

    When I was in Trieste, after I asking the locals, I tipped the cab driver 5€ on a 55€ fare and the driver acted like I just handed him the Hope Diamond. So obviously they’re not expecting tips like they do in the US. It really is a different way of thinking.

    (Or I’m a cheapskate, and the guy was being polite.)

  • David, my understanding of the tipping issue is that it’s exactly as you say at Chez Panisse: when the unions wanted to force the restaurants to pay servers minimum wage a deal was cut with the government whereby the restaurants could raise all the prices by 15% to cover the costs and say “tip included”. For some serving staff this was undoubtedly a raise, for others a loss of wages – but for all it led to stability. And I believe that nowadays there are very few waiters who only receive minimum wage: it’s seen as a métier, i.e. a real profession with real wages.

    Great post, by the way – I’m going to print it out to give to visitors as I get tired of trying to explain! And for some reason, that usher one really ticks my dear husband off, because they never allow you to just find your own seat – moral blackmail!! ; )

  • Thanks for the advice (I just narrowly avoided a terrible pun) It turns out I always tip too much when I come to Paris. In Ireland tipping is something we are only getting the hang of now. I would be the rounding up to €5 after a drink type, despite being a well-behaved customer. In restaurants I would usually leave at least €5 but my young daughter usually travels with me and I have found staff are always very patient (she likes to order for herself.)My hotel etiquette is somewhat lacking too. Will have to get to Paris soon to practise my new-found skills.

  • Tipping in theaters was hard to get used to–do they still tip in movie theaters? And then bring up the lights after the previews so the ushers can walk around selling refreshments (“esquimaux! chocolats glaces!”?).

    Many many many years ago when I went to a sold-out performance at the opera, the usher grabbed my tip and showed me to the wrong box! But now they don’t seem to take tips at either of the opera houses, nor at a few of the other concert halls. But you have to pay about $10 for the program — does the concessionaire get a take?

  • Laura: In Paris, a tip is more ‘appreciated’ rather than ‘expected’. I used to over-tip, just to be sure.

  • We were in Le Vieux Bistro a year ago, and an American woman was declaring to her dining partner that the “tip is included” claim was just a scam started by cheap rubes to cheat the poor French waiter/proletariat. Too loud, too long went her harangue and my husband finally interrupted their “private” conversation to explain that the French pay their waiters a real wage and that the system is simply different. (His brother is a waiter and considers it a profession.) She dismissed him as “ignorant.”
    —-

    My husband is French, I am American, and I think Americans like the tipping in their culture because, at that moment when they hand someone the money, they have a moment of superiority. And the illusion of control over the person being graced with their cash.
    —-

    I prefer the French mentality: do your job because it is your job and businesses should pay people what their service is worth. (Don’t get me started on the sense of entitlement that pervades the US, including the damn Starbucks “baristas” – {scoff} – who insist on tips because their job is “like, so hard” when they push the button.) But Americans are addicted to that moment when they can feel generous and powerful.

  • I am an American who once lived on tips, and I don’t care what the person feels (superior or put upon) when they leave the money on the table–all I know is that the money I earned in tips helped to pay my rent and bills and college tuition. The $2.13 an hour my employer paid me was certainly not going to do it.

    Yes, businesses *should* pay their employees what their service is worth, but many American businesses do not. For many barristas, the wage they make is often not a living wage and those tips can really help. Anyone who provides friendly service is certainly deserving of my pocket change. (And, no, I’m not a barrista.)

    Thank you, David, for this guide to tipping. It’s not easy to spell out these often unspoken rules. I have never been to Paris, but I did recently have a Japanese friend visit my American hometown (where there is NO tipping) and having to explain the American system to him was a challenge!

  • Brenda: When I was in Japan, they told me it was an insult to tip. I did once, for room service, and from the mortified look on the woman’s face, I think that’s right.
    ______

    Curiously, in San Francisco, they just passed a law where waiters, and everyone else, are paid a ‘living-wage’. So no longer will they be making a base pay of $2-3 (I don’t know exactly what it was.) So waiters will now get tips on top of that.

    I waited tables for a while and although it could get rough, I raked it in. (Although not typical, at one restaurant I worked in, the waiters would average $80k per year, often in cash–unfortunately, I was a cook at that one…) Don’t know if they’re going to give up on the tip system as a result. When I go back to the US I never know if I’m giving enough. Or too much. It’s so confusing…

    …checking in and out of hotels when I teach, I gotta make sure you’ve got a wad of singles to hand out for housekeeping, bell clerks, car hop, taxi tips, etc….

    I’d be happier if coffee shops raised their prices 25 cents (and improved their coffee 25%), and restaurants included a 15-18% service charge, and everyone got enough to live on. Then we all could collectively sing kumbaya and listen to Up With People!

    It’s interesting how they can pull it off and make it work in Asia, Europe (and provide health care), and probably everywhere else in the world.
    Except in the US.

  • Up, Up with People!

    I meant, in my post, that there is no tipping in Japan–but there is tipping in my American hometown (which you caught, of course!). In Japan, you might only tip at a ryokan, the traditional Japanese inn, and only at the beginning of the visit, not at the end. And the tip then is rather large, maybe 30% or more of the cost of your stay.

    There are a number of taboos regarding money in Japan. It can be incredibly rude, for example, to hand another person money, even when making a purchase or accepting change in a store…So I hope you didn’t just hand the woman some money! She might’ve thought you were trying to buy something from her other than her housekeeping skills. (No, seriously.)

  • David’s point is mine: somehow Europeans manage to live without such an extensive tipping culture.

    I’m not saying that Starbucks employees don’t work. I’m just saying that a lot of people do their job accurately and with a friendly manner that don’t get tipped. (Do you tip the check-out person at the supermarket? Or the bank teller?) Where does it end?

    I used Starbucks employees as an example because they are NOT paid $2/hour (like restaurant servers are). And, if I am remembering correctly, fifteen years ago, you would go into a Starbucks and (brace yourself) just pay for the drink that you ordered. And they would give it to you. With a smile. There was no “tip jar.” Nobody had invented it yet. (Back then, you only really tipped if you got table service – because they were bringing you the food.) And then somebody somewhere was tacky enough to put out a jar with a hand-lettered sign that said “tips” and now we are being emotionally blackmailed into paying an extra dollar for an already (relatively) expensive item. And, worse yet, the practice is so pervasive that everyone *expects* the tip now.

    Yes, I tip in Starbucks. For all my rant, I do it. And I don’t doubt that the money does definitely help the “baristas” there (and I think the quote marks are necessary). If someone gave me extra money, of course it would be more than I had before – and more money is almost always “helpful.” But are they also implying that without that extra bit, they wouldn’t make your drink or would do so with a snarl? Why wasn’t this a problem ten years ago (pre-tip jar)? When did it become ok to accept money from anyone that will give it to you? What happened to pride? (I think we exchange pride for money.)

    I am a private tutor. I charge what the market will bear for my service. I do my job to the best of my ability, as kindly as possible. Because it is my job to do so. Every year, I have a handful of clients who try to give me extra money at the end of a semester (usually a couple hundred dollars). I realize it is old-fashioned (or stupid, according to my classless sister), but I always refuse the extra money: I am a professional (a very well educated one with a PhD in math, though most of my clients probably don’t even know my last name…no kidding) and taking that “tip” would reduce me to nothing more than…a “barista” with their hand out. Sure, the extra money would “help,” but at what cost? It is a cultural thing, definitely. (These same people would never dream of tipping their accountant or doctor….)

    Maybe it is wrong, but I have more respect for French servers.

    Long way around to agree with David.

    (By the way, I have waitressed. Put myself through college that way, through grad school. It is a very hard job – at times – and I am not missing it very much at all. That said, the “begging” for money implicit within the server-customer relationship is demeaning. Yes, the money was fabulous, but, in the end, I would have preferred to be paid a regular wage – maybe less money, probably – and not have that demeaning aspect inherent to the position.)

  • As an European living in the US, the de-facto obligatory tipping irritates me. To me, going to a restaurant is buying a concept — you walk in, get seated, pick something off the menu and are served. The price I’m paying for my meal, should, in my opinion, include all these things. Perhaps I could opt for getting out in the kitchen and pick up my own plate? I do tip, but I do it because I have to (no, I don’t Have to, but who would like to be known as the no-tipper?). I wish I tipped because the service and food was so darn good, but that’s not always the case.

    For some reason, Americans seem to prefer this system; I don’t hear anyone complain. And the guest seem to believe just because the tip isn’t included in the price, the meal is much cheaper. Makes no sense to me.

    It would be interesting to know how much money in the country ends up in the tip jar over a year.

  • Christina: According to *current* American mores, you would still have to tip even if you go to the kitchen and pick up your own food. (Ten years ago, when my husband would get tired of the whole tipping minefield, some nights he would want to just get carry-out to side-step the whole issue. Now even that is a tipping thing.)

    Now that I think about it, if people like Starbucks drink-makers “deserve” tips, why don’t we tip cooks in restaurants? Now THAT I would gladly do. Their job is enormously hard when the restaurant is full (when I waitressed, I always knew that I had it much much easier than the cooks), and they do their job as best they can, often brilliantly, plate after plate. When they make a mistake, the server just walks it back to them (7 seconds extra work, 14 round trip), but they are the ones to actually take the extra time to fix the problem.

    Let’s stop tipping the servers – pay them whatever wage the market demands to get the job done well, using supply/demand forces – and start tipping the cooks who ACTUALLY make the magic happen.

  • Why DO we tip servers more when the food is very good? (“Well, the service was lousy, but the beurre blanc and torte was amazing, so let’s leave a decent tip.” We’ve all said something like that, I think.)

    The cooks don’t get even a part of that, so what does that reinforce? Hmmmmm.

  • Just a word on the proper use of nomenclature – ……
    Tip: “tip” is actually an acronym derived from the term “to insure promptness”, and is given to one at the inception of service, to initiate a known special relationship such as IMMEDIATE attention/service, or to a host for a preferred seat. It can stand on its own, or can be a prelude to a gratuity at the end of such service, depending on the implication of the giver. The catch to giving the right size tip is to know the conditions or value of what you anticipate being done for you. ……
    Gratuity: “gratuity” is what it implies, that you are grateful for the service you have received (past tense). In some cases it is included in a charge, in others it is a voluntary addition, and in yet other situations it can be perceived as an insult as the person of service considers him/herself to be of professional stature and is in no need of what would be demeaning extra monetary assistance to their station in life.

  • I live in Paris part-time and I have traveled extensively around the world. I for one believe in cultural differences and my moto when I travel is, “do what the Romans do…” So, for me tipping depends on the cultural norms.

    This incident happened to us recently in Paris that I want to share this with David’s readers. We went to a restaurant and I have to agree the service was top-notch, albeit the food wasn’t up to par with the service, mais pas mal (not bad). It’s a relatively small restaurant “Le Reconfort.” We got the bill and I noticed that it had “tip not included.” This has never happened to me before, and I’m pretty familiar with Paris laws concerning tips. By French law, service is always included. This pissed me off, I felt I was being taken intimidated and taken advantage of. We were going to leave a tip, because of the service, but after seeing this, I just got pissed off and didn’t want to leave anything, and we didn’t

    I believe in the power of the “pen” so after we left I wrote on several blogs about this incident. I don’t have problems confronting, but we had taken friends out and I didn’t want to spoil their evening.

    Also, word of advice when visiting Paris, especially in tourist spots, and especially the 5eme, Latin quarter, always check your bill. I’ve noticed that when you sometimes do the “le menu” or formule, they charge separtely.

  • David, I have loved your column for awhile,with your quirky humor and delicious food descriptions/recipes…
    But I write to ask: where would a tourist who forgot their plug-in adaptor for their US computer buy such a thing in Paris??? Sorry, not even a food related question!

    Thanks for any suggestions, Peggy

  • Hi Peggy: Most luggage shops (there are many scattered around Paris) would likely carry them and probably Monoprix stores as well. I know for sure they have them at the BHV department store and at electronics stores such as FNAC and Surcouf.

  • Thanks for this great info. My husband and I eloped in Paris in 2006 and had a small lunch with family and friends at the Ritz afterwards. The bill was around 500 euro and we were baffled as to how much to tip. The service was amazing and so was the food…best meal of my life thus far, so we assumed a big tip was appropriate. Were we wrong?

  • I know French people that wouldn’t leave a tip in a restaurant like that. Not because they’re cheap, but because it is included. However if you have had good service, you could leave around 5% as a gesture of thanks. Since I don’t eat in too many high-end restaurants, if anyone else had advice, please chime in.

    I do know that it’s not a good idea to overtip. You certainly don’t need to leave 15-20% and doing so is really excessive, since service is already included.

  • i am sorry, but i know firsthand that wht you believe about tipping in paris is wrong. my boyfriend has been working as a waiter for a few years now in Paris, in a varied range of restaurants, and i have plenty of close friends who are waiters too, and they all live on the tips they earn every night. they are all declared full-time (which is quite rare in the touristic bars and restaurants of paris), but whether or not the law requires that 15% of the price represent the service, they still earn, all of them, the minimum salary, which barely allows one to pay a rent in paris. everyone counts on tips for a living, and all the french people i know are aware of that, always leaving at least 10 percent (leaving anything less is considered “radin”). on the other hand, i have seen your opinion expressed by many foreigners and i simply cannot understand where it was initiated. what is required by law and what really happens are two very different things: usually waiters earn miserable wages and, as i said, most of them are not even declared, so they are in an even more desperate need of a tip (at one point my boyfriend was working 11 hours a day in a restaurant at st michel and being paid 6, but let’s say this is an extreme situation). anyway, i can assure you that all my waiter friends promptly insult any person who leves without leaving the required percentage and they remember the client and treat him badly the next time (well, not badly, but coldly). i’m not saying it’s right, it’s just what they do and how they feel about it; they work long hours, have low salaries and have to put up with people who sistematically treat them like servants – i don’t know how i would react in such situations. oh, and they are always required to say the service is included, even if they know it’s not. i always leave a tip in restaurants and the waiters are alwys happy, they never complain or seem surprised about it. my boyfriend makes 100 euros a night from tips, so the practice may be a little more widespread than you might think

  • Hi nora: Thanks for your thoughts. I’ve eaten out quite a bit, many times with French friends, and I’ve not seen anyone leave 10%. (I know French people that scoff when I want to leave something: “It’s included!” they’ll say when I try to leave some money.) By law, a service charge is always included in the bill, and anything extra is for good service. That said, a majority of people, at least in Paris, do round up the check, as I noted in the post. Ten percent would be considered quite generous.

    In her book, Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris, Clotilde Dusoulier (who is Parisian) notes; “How much you tip depends on how happy you are…but 5 percent is a good baseline.”

    It is interesting that when I worked at restaurants in America, Europeans often drew the ire of waiters because they didn’t leave tips, ostensibly because they were accustomed to not leaving tips back in their home countries.

  • I have been staying in France for about a year now and in Paris since the last three months, and I do leave a tip only if it rounds off or the service has been excellent or some special requests have been well carried out. Otherwise, no. Not even at the places I frequent. I have been out, like you David, with French friends too, and I have never seen them put in a 10%. Thats usually too much.

  • I haven’t been to Paris for 10 years, but I would leave a small gratuity simply because I’m a server, and I know there’s often misconceptions on how much we make. For instance, the Paris server is probably being fully taxed on the “fixed” amount, so extra cash tips are appreciated. Also, frankly, a few extra euros make any server happy, and they’ll remember you. Ask yourselves this: How much of that gratuity is being held by the management as a kickback? Because, my friend, that still happens.

  • I agree with your guidelines, David.

    I’ve lived in France (mostly Paris) for 8 years, and my friends, French people (some trained in the hospitality industry) and long-time expats alike, give around €1 per €20-30 in most restaurants. I do know a few Parisians who rarely leave anything, but it’s a nice gesture, especially if you’re a regular (or hope to become one).

  • Hi Dunda: I was a waiter as well, in the states, although I worked in a place where we split tips, which was intended to be fair to both the kitchen and the dining room staff and eliminate half the staff making a huge amount of money while the other half makes a lot less. Another restaurant I worked at years later, Chez Panisse, instituted a service charge to make everyone’s pay more equal.

    In France, unlike in the states where their pay is often less to compensate for the tips they’ll be making, waiters make a regular salary just like everyone else. Any tips are always left as cash or coins on the table with the check or on the counter. There’s no place on credit card slips to write-in a gratuity. So unless the waiter gives the money to a manager (which I can’t a French waiter doing), he or she would keep it all for themselves.

  • as a born and raised parisian, I agree with you on the amount of tips you describe overall, however, as service is indeed included (so that waiters are paid a fixed wage, but also put whatever tips they get into a pot that is then split between the whole team at the end of the day), I reserve myself the right to leave nothing extra if the staff has been rude (which unfortuntely happens A LOT), and a little bit more than the round up to the next euro or the odd 1 euro coin if the staff has been really nice / helpful: standards in Paris being so low, I do feel like nice waiters must be encouraged!

  • I, too, lived in Paris and dined out often with Parisian friends. David is absolutely correct about tipping. Perhaps ‘nora’ thought you were talking about Paris, Texas???

  • This is just great. I have been tipping an extra 20-25% all through Europe. What a rube I am. This information is now seared into my brain for my next trip.

  • I still remember how we (my husband and I) travelled through Loire Valley. And in one small town we decided to have a dinner in a cafe. The service was awful I have to say: we’ve been waiting our order for an hour, the waiter mixed up the dishes and after all we couldn’t decided if we should leave any tips for such service or not. And finaly, for all that, we left several euros. Simply we didn’t know should we do it obligatory or not.

  • I find it odd that you say no tips are required then talk about tips for ushers and hairdressers. I would never consider tipping these. Heavens, if an usher shows 100 people to their seats he would earn E100 minimum for a half hours work on top of his wages. That is pretty rich. As well, your info on coat check is confusing, not required in one paragraph and required in the next paragraph. But i do believe that you need to fit with the customs of the country rather than your own comfort level.

  • bonjour, monsieur… david,

    my husband and i just got back from paris. it was a celebration of my 50th birthday and this was my first trip.

    i have spent years reading about paris, dreaming of going someday. my husband flies for AA Airlines and i used to be a FA, but somehow, paris eluded me. finally, the big wait was over and we were on our way to paris!

    i instructed my husband to leave his levis at home, ditch the boring golf shirts and laid out his “nice for paris” wardrobe. i bought a few new things in gray and black (pure coincidence since i would later realize those are the only colors parisians wear), packed two pairs of snazzy black heeled boots and my favorite chic black suede knee high boots and oh yeah, one more sensible pair of Clarks just in case i needed to be comfortable. thank god for those clarks! my cool boots couldn’t fit on my feet after the nine hour flight!

    also to prepare for the trip, i got on amazon to check out books on paris. i was looking for a book ina garten recommends by patricia wells and i came across many including yours, “my sweet life in paris.” we picked up a couple of books at barnes and noble including a small translation book and went with that. boy, what a mistake!

    upon our return last week, i went back to B&N to pick up a baking cookbook and of course, as usually happens when i get in a cookbook section, i had to look at everything. again, i came across your book and began to read. i was laughing out loud and shaking my head in astonishment at how dead-on your descriptions of parisian behavior is, right down to plowing right into you on the sidewalk, cutting in lines, and the “donkey piss cafe”. it was hilarious to read and yet disappointing that i didn’t read YOUR book before the trip.

    we stayed in the Saint Germain arrondissement and walked to the louvre to shake off our nine hour flight and jet lag. i couldn’t feel my feet yet and had to switch from my cool shoes to my “sensible” shoes (yes, the clarks which are kinda like clogs). as we walked (more like stumbled) along the narrow sidewalks (and to make it even worse, cobblestone), i kept stepping behind my husband in single file to make room for the couple or group of parisians barreling toward us. this happened over and over. my husband didn’t notice, but i did. this happened everywhere we went. i also began to notice as we were standing in a very long line to get in the eiffel tower that for some odd reason, people who needed to get on the other side of the line would walk between us and the couple in front of us (from among all the other hundreds in the line). this happened over and over as we stood there for an hour or so. i finally mentioned it to my husband (again, he wasn’t paying attention) and i asked him to watch. he realized i was right…that really was happening. i was trying not to breathe down the back of the couple in front of us and as an american, not get too close and certainly, not actually touch them! apparently, that 11 or 12 inches was way too much distance.

    by our third day, we were ready to kill for a GOOD cup (or gallon) of coffee. i found myself getting grumpy and longing for peets, my favorite here in the states. i jokingly asked my husband if he thought paris had a starbucks. starbucks possesses most of the real estate in new york city, so i figured they may have infiltrated paris as well. as we were walking back to our hotel through the Latin Quarter, we stumbled upon an actual STARBUCKS. there it was like OZ… somewhere near Odeon. but it was late at night and past my 4 pm caffeine binging hour so we staked it out and ended up there the next day. while i admit starbucks might not be the best coffee, nothing ever tasted so good after days of sipping lukewarm, dinky, faux cafe au laits. my husband is Italian-American and knows good coffee!

    yet, my husband didn’t read his paris books close enough. since he took french in high school and i took spanish, he was better able to form a sentence. i was stuck with words and phrases and polite gesturing and lots of smiling just to be sure they knew i was a very nice person. he did indeed ask the waiter for deux cafe au laits, not cafe creme. i was too jet lagged and caffeine deprived to help remind him about the cafe creme thing i read about in yet another book about paris culture. i guess we were “silly americans” on more than one occasion during the four days we were there. but i can say, we did not touch the fruit!

    so it was funny, yet oddly reassuring to read your book and find some sense of validation that what i was witnessing in parisian behavior was not imagined. sure enough, it all happened right on cue and we both learned a lot about french culture the hard way.

    now, we can laugh about it but next time, we’ll be prepared. i’m making a bee line toward that starbucks and if we MUST order cafe, it will be cafe creme!

    so thanks for the insight david. i am now a fan and i can’t wait to try some of your recipes!

    merci,
    cris (a polite american)

  • Sorry about all the people walking in to you, as if you weren’t there…but can’t say I didn’t warn folks! : )

    If you travel around France, many other folks have the same reaction to the brusque nature of Parisians and it’s just something one gets used to. The coffee, however, I still have trouble with…

  • How about the breakfast ladies at one’s hotel, when the breakfast is included in the room raqte? I tend to want to tip people that are not highly paid, and I seriously doubt they make a big salary. Is it appropriate or odd to leave a euro or so after eating?

  • Theresa: If you’re staying at a hotel for a number of days and am employee at the breakfast area is especially helpful (like you have a lot of special requests), you could give them a gratuity on the final day. (And you’re right that many of them, especially in smaller hotels, probably don’t make a lot of money.) It’s not something most people do nor is it expected, but it’s at your discretion.