If your school French has long faded, but you want to make some kind of effort when you stop for a coffee, here’s our guide to getting by…
Never feel bad about just having a single coffee in a bar, it’s perfectly normal.
The most important rule is the simple “Bonjour”. Launching into any kind of request before saying hello is considered impolite.
In the morning many cafes will have a basket of croissants to choose from, if not, it’s usually OK to bring your own from the bakery.
Busy cafes will ask you to pay up front, others will leave the bill when they deliver. Leftover change is the ideal tip. You don’t tip as much here as in the USA or UK for example.
The French tend to drink a coffee in the morning and one after lunch. This means an espresso: small, black, simple. If you expect anything else when you ask for a coffee you will be disappointed with what is brought to you. Here are some useful terms:
Un café a small espresso
Une noisette a small espresso with a dash of milk (macchiato)
Un café allongé a long coffee (americano)
Un grand crème a coffee with heated, frothed milk (closest to a cappuccino)
If you want a decaffeinated coffee, you’ll need to add ‘déca’ on the end of your order.
The flat white, and even a decent cappuccino, have yet to make it to the cafes of Provence, with a few exceptions in cities. The closest approximation is a grand crème.
If you’re really keen to find your perfect coffee, wander the side streets of Aix, Avignon and Marseille where you will find small hip cafés starting to pop up that are well-versed in coffee fashion.
Take-away coffee hasn’t caught on either, though some bakeries such as Paul are set up for it. You will be asked if you want to drink in or take out:
Sur place? eating/drinking in
A emporter? taking out
Specialty milks and sugar substitutes simply don’t exist.
So there you have it, in one sentence: “Bonjour! Un café s’il vous plait.”
We have many rental properties a short walk from a cafe, check out our hand-picked Provence holiday rentals.