5 Essential Phrases for Your French Vacation

It’s always a good idea to study up on a country’s lingo before you visit. For one, locals are more likely to be courteous and helpful if you make an effort to address them in their langue maternelle. And let’s be honest– ordering a bottle of wine in French is an impressive party trick to add to your arsenal.

Below are a few words and phrases – all equally useful in my personal opinion – that will serve you well on your next voyage en France.

1.     Pardon. Translation: “excuse me” or “I’m really sorry I’m standing on your toes on this crowded métro” or “hi, I’d like you to please get out of my way but I would rather not shove you.” You can speak volumes with this tiny two-syllable word. It’s all in the tone.

2.     Bonjour/ Bonsoir. Translation: “good day” and “good evening,” respectively. Anytime you enter or leave a store, restaurant, or other establishment, make sure to greet the people working there. Likewise, if you ask someone a question, make sure to first say hello. The French consider it rude not to greet someone before beginning a conversation or transaction, so make sure to say a quick “hello” to keep them from mumbling something unsavory about rude Americans under their breath.

3.     Une bouteille de vin rouge, s’il vous plait. Translation: “a bottle of red wine, please.” Need I say more?

4.     Je cherche [insert name of establishment here]. Translation: “I’m looking for…” Chances are you will get lost at least four times on your trip, no matter how short it is. Embrace the adventure! But sometimes you just need someone to help you find that elusive patisserie you’ve been hunting for days. It happens to the best of us. 

5.     Un pain au chocolat et un café, s’il vous plait. Translation: “a chocolate croissant and a shot of espresso, please.” Because nobody should take on the ‘City of Light’ without first eating a good breakfast. Note I didn’t say “healthy” breakfast. Calories don’t count in Paris.

Le voila! Ok, so maybe this isn’t exactly a conclusive list of the lingo you’ll need… (To ask where the restroom is, simply ask “toilettes?” Guess that one’s pretty important, too.) But stumbling around and learning as you go is part of the fun. Amusez-vous bien à Paris! 

Sarah lives in Austin, Texas, but would rather be in Paris. Follow her on Instagram.