In France, tourists find French waiters rude and unprofessional; unlike in other countries where servers are all friendly and greets everyone with a bright smile. It is— in a foreigner’s perspective— possibly true. However, for French locals who are accustomed to a particular culture and language, it is in many ways wrong.
Since time immemorial, culture and language have been a huge hurdle and reason for miscommunication between two nationalities. From accustomed gestures to shared language, these differences have been dividing people due to misunderstanding. And most foreigners’ popular opinion about French waiters ‘rudeness’ could be among the many byproducts of misinterpreted culture and language.
To further understand French waiters’ language of food serving, here is a breakdown of locals’ common misinterpreted behavior and what its correct translation is.
In France, Being a Food Server Is a Profession
Unlike America’s popular belief about food serving, for the people of France, being a waiter is not a temporary job while figuring out what one wants desire to do for a living— but a profession. In the past years, France enacted a law wherein local waiters were freed from being dependent on tips as a source of income. Hospitality industry where food serving belongs is also as old as being a baker or a shoemaker which is traditionally passed down to generation after generation. Hence, French waiters are completely a different kind of food servers from the rest of the world, which demands respect just like other occupations.
Among the many complaints, tourists find ‘impolite’ about French waiters is that they don’t greet their customer with a smile. As what was mentioned above, food serving in France is a profession not meant to please anyone for a small or huge tip and become anyone’s personal server. And if they seem rude, it is because they take their job seriously and demand respect. The problem is it is the complete opposite of America’s culture in which waiters are seen as personal servers, and customers are always right. As a result, people from west think French servers are ill-mannered in nature and unprofessional with how they do their job.
French Waiters Let You Enjoy Your Time and Food
In France, eating is a personal leisure everyone should respect. And it is a common culture for French waiters to leave and let the person enjoy his food and time. Traditionally, French waiters have to leave and let people leisurely savor their food, and not walk around them from time to time to check if they are already done with their food or not. In other words, it is their way to express, “do not hurry and please do enjoy your time.” And if the person needs assistance, it is proper to approach them with signals like glancing at them or politely ask them to come near.
However, it is again a complete opposite of America’s culture wherein neglecting the customer’s other needs after food is served is recorded as impoliteness. As a result, American visitors find French servers as ill-mannered when in fact, it is their shared language to show respect.
Not All French Waiter Are English Fluent
Although English is considered the universal language, there are areas in France where locals don’t speak English fluently. And in restaurants, not all waiters can speak it too. Additionally, to avoid misunderstanding between the server and the customer, most restaurants have already incorporated English translation into their menus.
For this matter, when asking for specific questions in English, it is possible that the waiter cannot understand what you are saying. Hence, they are not able to help you with what you need. It is— as opposed to what most foreigners think it is— not out of impoliteness and unprofessionalism. It is better to not expect too much from French waiters when it comes to the English language; rather understand that both of you do not share the same language and try to understand each other.
Culture and language are, more often than not, is rooted in some misunderstanding between people of two different nationalities. And for the people of France especially those in the hospitality industry, it is undeniably true. So instead of concluding that French servers are ‘rude and unprofessional’, it is wise to pause and think first before judging.