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Photo by Melanie Clatanoff
Cafés, the pinnacle of French culture, operate with their own rules and regulations. These can get confusing. Here’s a crash course on how they work. Follow them and ensure a faux pas-free trip to France:
1. Say “bonjour” and make eye contact with the bartender if you walk by him, or to the waiter if he’s closest, as soon as you step inside. It’s polite, and once you do this, the waitstaff will know that you’re there.
2. It’s cheapest to stand at the bar to have your coffee, beer, or whatever. If you sit down inside you’ll pay a bit more; sitting outside on the terrace is the priciest option. The additional charge is for the waiter. What this means, by the by, is that the tip really is already added to the bill. You don’t have to leave a single centime for a tip if you don’t want to.
3. How to speak café: A “café” is an espresso with only sugar on the side. If you want something slightly more diluted, American-style, ask for a “café allongé.” Espresso with milk and sugar on the side is a “noisette.” If you want lots of steamed milk in your espresso ask for a “café au lait” or a “café crème.”
OK, good job. Now you can sit in that café all day. Even if the waiter asks you to pay because he’s going off shift, you can remain sitting. Read a book, write a novel, or just check people out as they walk by.