7 Polite French Phrases to Learn before Visiting Paris


The French – Parisians, in particular – have a reputation for being rude. But the behavior that foreigners perceive as rudeness is often the result of a cultural misunderstanding. France has its own standards of politeness and these may differ from those of your home country. In fact, when a Parisian seems rude, he or she might actually be reacting to a perceived rudeness on your part, even though in your eyes you’ve acted perfectly normally.

To avoid any such misunderstandings – and experience the best side of Parisians – learn the following 7 French phrases before visiting Paris. These phrases will show that you’re polite, respectful and have some understanding of French culture. In return, we think you’ll come to see that Parisians are much more friendly than they’re reputed to be!

  1. Bonjour – Good morning/hello

       Pronunciation: Bohn-joohr

Seems obvious, right? But many people don’t realize that “bonjour” is probably the most important phrase in the French language. In France, you should say bonjour to whenever you enter a store, restaurant, elevator, or bus (to the driver; whenever you start a conversation with a stranger (i.e., asking for direction, asking for help at a store), or when you encounter a neighbor or hotel staff. For extra points, you can say: Bonjour Monsieur/Madame/Mademoiselle.


  1. Excusez-moi de vous déranger = Excuse me for bothering you…

         Pronunciation: Ex-kue-zay / mwa /duh /voo /dey-rahn-zhay

If you’re asking a question or making a request of a stranger, preface your request with this phrase. Use especially if the person is engaged in another activity at the time of your request, such as talking to someone, reading, etc. You would not use this phrase with waitstaff or a salesperson at a store. In those cases you would simply say: “Excusez-moi…”


  1. C’est très gentil, merci = That’s very nice (of you), thank you.

Pronunciation: Say /trehay / zhawn-tee / mare-si

Use this phrase when someone does something especially nice for you. This may include giving you directions on the street, helping you (or offering to help) in some way, or giving you a compliment.


  1. Parlez-vous anglais? = Do you speak English?

       Pronunciation: Pahr-lay /voo / anhn-glay?

Want to get on a Parisian’s bad side? Start yammering away in English before asking whether or not he or she speaks the language. You’re in France. The national language is French. It’s what’s taught in schools. It’s what spoken at home. Many Parisians do speak English, but not everyone does. And of those that do speak English, not everyone speaks it very well. So, even if you feel in your bones that the person speaks English, just be polite and ask first. If you show this courtesy, you’re likely to get a warmer, more thoughtful response to your query.


  1. Desolé(e), je ne parle pas français (très bien) = I’m sorry, I don’t speak French (very well).

  Pronunciation: Deh-zo-ley / zhe /nuh /pahrl /pa/ frahn-say /(treh bee-ahn).

Another way of getting into a Parisian’s good graces is by apologizing for not being able to speak French very well. The French do not expect the entire world to speak the language. Still, it’s nice to hear someone making the effort to speak it and apologizing for not being able to do more.


  1. Excusez-moi, pouvez-vous me dire où est… ? = Excuse me, can you tell me where ______ is?

    Pronunciation: Poo-vey /voo /muh /dear /oo /ay…

If you need help in a store or on the street, this phrase will certainly come in handy. Of course, you’ll need to fill in the blank with the name of the place or street you’re looking for. And it’s almost always a good idea to preface the phrase with “Excusez-moi…”.


  1. C’était très bon = It was really good.

      Pronunciation: Say /et-tay /treh /bohn.

Get that Parisian waiter to smile by complimenting the fine meal you’ve had (if it’s deserving, of course!). Often after you’ve eaten, your server might say: “Ça a été?” meaning “How was it?” If you liked it, deliver your compliments in French and with a smile. Remember that “bon” is always used for food, never “bien”.

Is there a French phrase you’d like to use during your trip to France, but don’t know how to express it? Ask us in the comments below and we’ll get back to you!




It's La Chandeleur: Serve up the crêpes!

Crêpe-lovers rejoice! Today is La Chandeleur (Candlemas), which means crêpes!  Many French families will have a massive crêpe-making session tonight, school cafeterias will serve these thin pancakes to children, and while strolling through the market, you may suddenly find a warm, freshly-made crêpe thrust into your hand – for free!

Keep reading to find out more about this delicious French tradition!

History of La Chandeleur

La Chandeleur (Candlemas) is a muddle of pagan and Christian traditions that have existed since ancient times. In ancient Rome, it was a celebration to honor Pan, god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, where they would march in the streets, waving lit torches. In the early Middle Ages, the Roman festival was Christianized to celebrate Jesus’s presentation to the temple and the Virgin Mary’s purification. To this day, many Catholic churches celebrate La Chandeleur with candlelight processions.

In medieval Anglo-Saxon culture, February 2nd also marked the traditional celebration of the coming of Spring. February 2 falls smack in the middle of the winter solstice and the spring equinox, signaling the return of sunlight and spring’s beginning. People would thus make offerings to the grain goddess on this date – hoping for a short winter – and engage in ritualistic “spring cleaning” of their homes. Weather superstitions were formed around the date, hence the fun rhyming Chandeleur proverb:

  Quand la Chandeleur est claire, l’hiver par derrière, Chandeleur couverte, quarante jours de perte.

 (When Candlemas is clear, no more winter to fear; if Candlemas is overcast, 40 days of winter to last.)

Americans are bound to recognize shades of Groundhog Day here!

The Crêpe Connection: Traditions and Superstitions

So, how did La Chandeleur come to be synonymous with eating crêpes? It’s said that the round golden pancakes bear a resemblance to the sun, reminding the people of the forthcoming warmth and fertility of spring. The tradition may also be rooted farming superstition that if you didn’t eat pancakes on February 2nd, the wheat crops would be decayed for the year.

While multiple traditions and superstitions surrounded the eating of crêpes in medieval times, only a few of these persist in France today. A favorite French tradition is that you must hold a gold coin in your writing hand, while flipping a crêpe into the air with the other. If you manage to catch the crêpe in your crêpe pan, your family will become rich that year.

Some families throw the first crêpe at an armoire (wardrobe) to see if it sticks. If it does, you should leave it there for a year! Other families are said to throw the first crêpe over the wardrobe.

Types of Crêpes

Most Anglo-Saxons know crêpes as a sweet dessert made from white flour. But in addition to these the French love savory crêpes made from buckwheat flour, called galettes de sarrasin or galettes de blé noir; or wheat flour, crêpes de froment. The most popular version is called la complète: it’s composed of ham, emmental cheese and an egg.

And, of course, sweet crêpes are also popular here for dessert or a snack. They’re often served simply with butter and sugar, slathered in Nutella, or wrapped around such delicious fillings as salted butter and caramel. If you've got a real sweet tooth, you can also add slices of bananas and fresh whipped cream.

Where to Find Great Crêpes in Paris

Crêperies and crêpe stands abound in Paris, but certain areas are more well-known for these pancakes than others. The rue du Montparnasse, near the Gare Montparnasse rail station, is especially famous for its tasty crêpe restaurants. This area gained its reputation for great crêpes because the trains departing and arriving from that station go to Bretagne, an area in northwestern France where crêpes are a particular specialty. Bretons moving to Paris settled in the area around the Gare Montparnasse area and brought their crêpe recipes with them.

The most famous restaurant on rue Montparnasse is Crêperie Josselin, which often has lines of customers waiting to get in. You’ll also enjoy La Creperie Plougastel, a popular Breton crêperie a little farther down the street, or Ty Breiz, which is just a few blocks from the Gare. Not far away is also 142 Crêperie Contemporaine, which brings chic and modernity to the crêpe scene.

Outside of the Montparnasse area, the most well-known crêperie is probably the trendy Breizh Café in the Marais, famous for their delectable buckwheat galettes. And if you happen to be over in the Latin Quarter, check out Crêperie de Cluny. You can also eat marvelous crêpe in Montmartre. After climbing 300 steps to the top, you will enjoy this street full of crêperies just next to the famous Basilic Sacré Coeur.

Simple Crêpe Recipe by FAYLI

Why not celebrate La Chandeleur by making your own crêpes at home? Try this easy crêpe recipe... and learn some French while you're at it!

Ingredients (for approx. 15 crêpes)

  • 300 g (1-1/3 cups) flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 liter (3 cups) of low-fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of rum or vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt


1. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs.

Battre les œufs dans un bol à part.

2. In a second bowl, combine flour with salt and sugar, making a well in the center.

Dans un autre récipient, mélanger la farine avec le sel et sucre, faire un puit au centre.

3. Pour the beaten eggs into the center of the flour well, then mix with a whisk.

Verser les œufs battus dans le centre du puit de farine, puis mélanger avec un fouet

4. Add the milk gradually, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Once milk is fully added, whip vigorously until fully combined.

Ajouter progressivement le lait en mélangeant continuellement pour éviter la formation de grumeaux. Une fois le lait ajouté, battre vigoureusement jusqu’à ce que le mélange soit homogène

5. Mix in the rum or vanilla extract thoroughly, then let the mixture rest for at least 30 minutes.

Bien mélanger avec le rhum ou l’extrait de vanille, puis laisser reposer au moins 30 minutes

6. Heat a large, shallow non-stick pan with a small piece of butter.

Faire chauffer une poêle non adhésive avec un petit morceau de beurre

7. Ladle about a half-cup of the batter into the hot pan and cook the crêpe on each side for about 30 -60 seconds.

Verser une demi-louche de pâte dans la poêle chaude et faire cuire la crêpe de chaque côté environ 30-60 secondes

8, Remove from pan and add your favorite topping: granulated sugar, melted butter, Nutella, sliced bananas or strawberries, or honey.

Retirer de la poêle et ajouter votre garniture préférée: sucre en poudre, beurre fondu, Nutella, bananes en rondelles, fraises ou miel



If you’re interested in making a buckwheat crêpe (galette), try David Lebowitz’s wonderful recipe here.

What’s your favorite kind of crêpe? Share with us below!

7 Cozy Spots in Paris to Escape the Winter Cold


In these frigid January days, those of us in Paris are scurrying from place to place under slate-grey skies, scowling as the freezing air seems to slice through every layer of our clothes. On days like these, nothing is more tempting than finding a nice quiet spot to hunker down with a good book and a warming drink.

To get you thinking warm thoughts, here are our top 7 picks of cozy places in Paris to curl up with your French workbooks (okay – any book) and get away from it all for awhile.


The moment you enter Caféoteque, you’re struck by two things: the rich all- encompassing scent of roasting coffee beans and the palpable chalereux (warmth) of the place, which seems to take you by the hand and draw you inside. For coffee lovers, Caféoteque is the ideal place to hide out from the cold.

Founded in 2005 by Gloria Montenegro, a Guatemalan native, Caféotechque single-handedly changed the coffee scene in Paris from notoriously bad to a glorious specialty fit for a gourmand. The café features more than 20 different coffee beans, each from a different country, with descriptive profiles accompanying each variety. And the baristas know what to do with these beans, too: each has been carefully-trained in the art of roasting beans and preparing the perfect cup of coffee. The shop even offers an intense 50-hour course to coffee professionals.



















Even if you don’t know an espresso from a ristretto, the café is still a wonderful place to have a time-out. For a Parisian space, it’s surprisingly generous with three sitting rooms filled with a variety of chairs, pillow-strewn benches and battered café tables. The walls are adorned with central American artwork, and the back room (which includes a bar and piano) has one wall entirely devoted to their stock of unroasted coffee beans.

Caféoteque’s only downside is that is doesn’t have Wifi.  On second thought, that's not really a downside...it makes it the perfect place to escape from the constant buzz of world for awhile. The only buzz you get here is from the coffee.

Caféoteque: 52 rue de l’Hôtel de Ville, 75004



Just as Caféotechque is a haven for coffee lovers, Le Valentin is a tea-lover’s dream. This little salon de thé is tucked away in the beautiful 19th-century Passage Jouffroy, just a few doors down from the Musée Grevin, Paris’s wax museum. Here, you’ll find more than 35 different types of teas, from green to white to Rooibos, served in beautiful cast iron teapots.
















As appealing as the tea are the array of patisseries offered, which range from basic croissants and pain au chocolat to more decadent offerings, such as moelleux aux myrtilles, a kind hazelnut-blueberry cake and baba rhum, a rum-soaked cake topped with whipped cream.

The salon’s elegant downstairs is certainly pleasing but the lamp-lit upstairs room is where you should head for extra charm and quiet. Featuring an assortment of canapés (sofas), tapestries, padded benches and long wooden tables, you can easily pass an hour or two in comfortable solitude. Warning: the Wifi is free but wonky.

Le Valentin: 30-32 Passage Jouffroy 75009 Paris


That’s right – why not find some peace and warmth at an old-fashioned public library? Although this particular library might prove a little distracting: with its the phalanx of marble busts lining the halls, and ornate golden chandeliers illuminating the reading room tables, it’s easily one of the most dazzling libraries in Paris.

Created in the 17th-century based on the private collection of Cardinal Mazarine, the bibliothéque is housed in the left wing of the prestigious Institut de France – that rather intimidating-looking gold-domed building on the Seine’s Left Bank just opposite the Pont des Arts. It’s home to approximately 500,000 printed works, including a Gutenberg bible and some 2,000 incunabula (books and pamphlets printed with the earliest typography).

Prestige and grandeur notwithstanding, don’t be afraid of going inside: the library is open to the public. To sit in its reading room for a spell, you’ll just need some identification and a reading room card, which is available from the on-duty librarian. A non-renewable five-day pass is available for free; an annual pass is available for €15.

Bibliothéque Marzarine: 23 Quai de Conti, 75006 Paris


Shakespeare & Company may not be from the 17th century, but it’s a legend in Paris nonetheless. For those unfamiliar with this landmark, Shakespeare & Co. is an (mainly) English-language bookstore in the 5th arrondissement, a stone’s throw from the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Originally opened in the 6th arrondissement in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, the bookstore was a famous hotspot for renown expatriate writers, including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. The shop closed during World War II but was resurrected in 1964 by George Whitman at its current location.

While the crammed bookstore itself is worth a visit, if you’re looking for a cozy spot to huddle up with your French notes for awhile, the upstairs reading room is just wonderful. Lined with books (not for sale) from floor to ceiling, the room offers comfy cracked leather armchairs, a slightly lumpy pillow-lined bench and assorted wooden chairs to while an afternoon away.

Shakespeare & Co: 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris


It's a myth that everyone in Paris has the time to go wandering dreamily around the city or sit aimlessly in cafés. If you need to get some serious work done and need a non-distracting but congenial environment to do it in, pop into Café Craft.

Half-café, half co-sharing workspace, this modern minimalistic place is tucked away in hipster heaven near the Canal St. Martin. The front part of the café offers a space for people to chat or read the international press over cakes, cookies, quiche and truly excellent coffee (Craft proudly uses a Marzocco, the “Rolls Royce” of coffee machines, and the baristas are carefully trained to make a good cup).












The back part of the café provides a long table for co-working (with an electrical outlet for each seat!) and there’s a sectioned-off part suitable for group meetings. The Wifi is fast and reliable; the baristas friendly. It’s a great place to work when your tiny Parisian apartment becomes too confining.... or if you just happen to be in the neighborhood!

Café Craft: 24, rue des Vinaigriers, 75010


6.  Hotel St. James Albany

If you want to step out of the cold and into warm comfort and splendor, head to the Hotel St. James Albany. This luxurious hotel is located in the 1st arrondissement, just steps away from the Jardin de Tuilieries and glitzy shopping street, rue Saint-Honoré. Here, you find a wonderful lounge– plush and cozy – where you can order a variety of drinks and snacks, from a coffee to a club sandwich to a bubbling coupe de champagne.  Exclusive though it is, the waitstaff is attentive but discreet and will never rush you out.  We often hold private French lessons here – and during the summer months, in their stunning interior courtyard.

Hotel St. James Albany:  202 rue Rivoli 75001 Paris

7.  Bonpoint Concept Store

Now, this place is one of the best-kept secrets in Paris.  Bon Point is an luxury children's clothing boutique with beautiful, expensive offerings (a simple pair of baby socks cost about €15; sweaters run upward of €150). But never mind that – tucked away in the cellar of their sprawling concept store in the exclusive 6th arrondissement is a charming little restaurant/café that offers total tranquility.  Few people know it's there and no signs outside advertising it.  You just have to know where to go.   Enter the store, give a nice 'bonjour' to the friendly vendeuse (sales ladies), and head down one flight of stairs to the restaurant.  It's an especially great place to go if you have a small child – it's one of the few restaurants in Paris that has high-chairs.   (And if you're interested in children's baby clothes, check out the store itself: the elaborate décor will blow your mind!)

Bonpoint Concept Store: 6, rue Tournon 75006 Paris

FRENCH LANGUAGE TIP:  If you chose to escape to a café, here are some French phrases that might be handy:

• Bonjour, je voudrais un café noisette s’il vous plait  (Hello, I'd like an espresso with cream, please.)

 • Pourrais-je avoir du sucre ? (May I have some sugar?)

• Est-il possible de se connecter en Wifi? Quel est le nom du réseau et le code d’accès ?  (Is it possible to connect to Wifi?  What is the the name of the network and the access code?)

• Je vous remercie ! (Thank you!)

Where is your favorite quiet spot in Paris? Share with us below!

When Parisians Won't Speak French to You - How to Handle It

Don't speak in English to me, Jean-Luc.

Doesn't it drive you crazy when this happens?

Scenario #1: You’ve just settled in at a table in a cozy Parisian bistro. In your very best French, you say to a waiter: “Puis-je avoir la carte, s’il vous plaît?*

He nods and immediately hands you an English menu.

Scenario #2: You’re at the fromagerie**, preparing to order a lovely slab of peppercorn brie. You say: “Je voudrais le brie de Valbrie. Une belle tranche s’il vous plait.”***

And the fromager***responds: “Of course! Is this piece the right size? A little smaller, maybe?”


When your best efforts at speaking French seem to result rejection, it can feel like a slap in the face. You may feel embarrassed, annoyed, doubtful of your abilities, and end up swearing that you’ll never utter another word in French again.

But don’t let situations like this stop you from speaking French!

Most of the time, Parisians who respond in English to your French don’t mean to appear rude – often they’re genuinely trying to be helpful. Some simply enjoy speaking English and think that you’d prefer it. Some want to prove to their colleagues and bosses that they can communicate in English to customers. And some are grabbing an opportunity to practice their own foreign language skills.

Seriously, even if it  sometimes doesn’t appear this way, most French people do want to speak their native language with you and are happy to do so.  

So, with this in mind, here are four tips to get French people to speak French with you:

  1. Just Keep Going.

When someone responds to your French in English, just pleasantly continue your end of the conversation in French. More often than not, the person will eventually understand that you prefer to converse in French and will willingly do so.

  1. Express Your Preference for French.

You can also politely tell the speaker that you’d rather speak in French. Try to master any of the following phrases to make your point:

    • J’aimerais parler en français, s’il vous plait. Je ne peux pas m’améliorer si je ne le parle pas!

      (I’d like to speak in French, please. I can’t improve if I don’t speak it!)

   • Peut-on parler en français s’il vous plaît? J’aimerais améliorer mon français. Merci!  

      (Can we please speak in French? I’d like to improve my French. Thanks!)

     • Je ne parle pas très bien, mais je préfère parler en français. Je dois l’apprendre

      (I don’t speak very well but I prefer to speak in French. I must learn it! )

    1. Be Flexible.

 Sometimes it may not be a good idea to persist in speaking French at a particular moment. Say you’re trying to explain something above your ability level to friends or colleagues. Even though you may want to battle your way through, your listeners may switch to English – both to make things easier for you and improve their understanding.

Roll with it...there’s no shame in reverting to English when you’re struggling or your listeners aren’t comprehending. Once you’re on more stable linguistic grounds, switch back to French. Then your listeners will understand that you’re committed to speaking French, even if you still have work to do.

  1. The “Excuse me?” Trick.

Alas, on rare occasions you may come across someone who really does mean to snub you by speaking English in response to your French. Here, feel free to feign incomprehension with a polite but puzzled “Pardon?”

After all, if someone is daring to denigrate your efforts to speak their language, their English had better be flawless…. And since it’s perfectly natural to have an accent or make mistakes when you’re speaking a foreign language, it probably won’t be.  Chances are, they’ll get the point and start speaking French again pretty sharpish.

How do you handle it when a French speaker responds in English to your French? Please share below!


*   May I have the menu, please?

** Cheese shop.

*** I would like the Brie from Valbrie, a good sized-slice please.


Top tips to learn French at markets in Paris

Paris is a haven for bon vivants. Although there are numerous supermarkets, chain shops and fast food restaurants, markets in Paris are still very much alive, kicking and full of fresh fruit & veg.


While in Paris, whether on holiday or staying for longer, we suggest making like the locals and heading over to your local market – you’ll be able to learn French in Paris whilst stocking up on delicious fresh and seasonal products!

However, before setting off, here are a couple of things about markets in Paris to bear in mind:

1.) Timing

Different markets are held on different days of the week – so check first rather than assuming they will be held on a Sunday. They usually kick off early, around 7am, and finish by 2pm. For excellent value, hit the stalls near closing time when sellers are keen to offload their wares.

What time does the market open/close? Le marché commence/termine à quelle heure?

2.) Prices

Prices are usually fixed, but if you’re friendly there’s no harm in trying a bit of bartering – as a minimum you’ll get a few extra strawberries or slightly rosier apples. It’s a great chance to practise and learn French. Simply smile and go for it - the effort is always appreciated.

Excuse me (get attention): Excusez-moi madame/monsieur
I’d like to buy a melon: Je voudrais un melon
How much does it cost? Combien ça coûte?
Thank you and see you soon: Merci madame/monsieur, à très bientôt

3.) Behaviour

Markets in Paris can be busy and bustling, so be prepared for a little shoving and expect your toes to be crushed by passing shopping caddies. However, do be patient and wait your turn – it’s a great opportunity to exchange a little small talk with the customers standing next to you and learn French vocabulary into the bargain!

It’s a lovely day, isn’t it? Il fait une journée magnifique, non?
Do you know where I can buy…? Savez-vous où on peut acheter

You’re now ready to practise your French at your local market. If you fancy venturing a little further afield, here are some of our favourite markets in Paris where you can hone your skills and learn French:

Marché des Enfants Rouges

This is the oldest remaining market in Paris and dates back to 1615. It’s now a trendy place to grab a bite to eat with an eclectic choice of food stands and restaurants.

I’d like to eat in: J’aimerais manger sur place
To take away: à emporter
Do you serve ….? Servez-vous…?

39 rue de Bretagne, 75003
Tue-Thu 8.30am-1pm, 4pm-7.30pm; Fri-Sat 8.30am-1pm, 4pm-8pm; Sun 8.30am-2pm
Métro: Filles du Calvaire or Saint-Sébastien Froissart

Marché de Belleville

Expect to see a whole new side to Paris! Belleville, famous as a Paris Chinatown, has an excellent value markets along its main boulevard. You’ll see strange vegetables alongside more traditional wares. Be prepared for lots of shouting in lots of different languages.

What is it? Qu’est-ce que c’est?
Which country does it come from? XXX vient de quel pays?
Do you sell… ? Est-ce que vous vendez… ?
A kilogram: un kilo
Two hundred grams of cheese: deux cents grammes de fromage
A dozen: une douzaine
Roughly/ approximately: environ, à peu près
I’d like a half a kilo of apples, please: Je voudrais un demi-kilo de pommes, s’il vous plaît

Boulevard de Belleville, 75011
Tuesday and Friday 7am – 2.30pm
Metro: Belleville

Marché Raspail

Although there aren’t yet many organic markets in Paris (things are slowly changing with more and more organic shops popping up), this market is rather enticing. There more than 50 stalls to meander that sell everything from soaps to wine with a fruit and vegetable focus.

Organic: biologique (bio)
Fresh: frais (m), fraiche (f)
Seasonal: de la saison
Where was it made? D’où vient….?

Boulevard Raspail, 75006
Metro : Notre Dame des Champs

Sun 9am-2pm Bio produce
Mon-Fri 7am-2.30pm general produce

Have fun practising your French at your local Paris market! Why not get some expert guidance private French lessons adapted to your level?

Happy shopping and here are some more ideas for markets in Paris.

5 Things That Make the French Santa Claus Different

Santa1Santa Claus is called Père Noël in French or Father Christmas. Small children may also call him Papa Noël or Daddy Christmas. He looks more or less like the Santa Claus from the American Coca-Cola ads, but  there are a few subtle differences in his costume and practices that make him French.

1.  Rather than the red Santa hat, Père Noël wears a red cloak with a hood trimmed in white fur. He often wears the hood up and so it’s a small difference that you can easily not be noticed.

2.. Children do not wake-up to presents under the tree on Christmas morning. Traditionally, le Père Noël brings toys to good little boys and girls after evening Mass on Christmas Eve.

3.  Children do not leave Santa Claus milk and cookies. French adults rarely drink milk and will usually laugh at the idea of a leaving a glass of milk for a grown man, even if he is Santa. At the very least, they’ll joke leave the guy a glass of Calvados or a wine.

4. Children do not hang stockings, but rather leave their shoes and slippers by the fireplace. If they have been good, Père Noël will leave treats in their shoes or slippers. Nowadays, he often also leaves piles of presents under the tree.

5.  The Père Noël does not leave coal for naughty children. Instead children behave around the holidays out of fear of Le Père Fouettard, who follows Father Christmas, and as his name implies whips and beats badly behaved children. Getting nothing but coal doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?

To help you prepare for the holiday, here are a few other useful words in French:

Christmas = Noël

Christmas carol = un chant de Noël

Christmas Day = le jour de Noël

Christmas Eve = la veille de Noël;

Christmas present = un cadeau de Noël;

Christmas tree = le sapin de Noël, l'arbre de Noël

Merry Christmas! = Joyeux Noël !

Bonnes fêtes de fin d'année from French As You Like It, your French language school in Paris!

How to Have Thanksgiving in Paris

Thanksgiving-dinner2-760380For American, the fourth Thursday in November can be a hard day to be in France. Besides the occasional co-workers or waiter who asks--Wut iz zis Zanksgiving, the day will be just the same any other Thursday in November. But don’t despair! There are an estimated 50,000 Americans living in France. If you got to have some turkey and stuffing, it can be done in Paris.

According to the NY Times, the Thanksgiving essentials are turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, potatoes, something orange (yams, squash or even mac and cheese), a green and snappy vegetable, and pie. Now here is how you are going to find them all!

Une Dinde
The French traditionally eat turkey (une dinde) at Christmas. The bird is definitely part of the culture, but unless you live in an area of Paris with tons of other Americans, a turkey will be hard to find in November. We recommend ordering your turkey ahead of Thanksgiving at your neighborhood butchers. Make sure you remember to convert pounds to kilos to be sure to get the right size bird. If you have a tiny stove, we’ve heard that some butchers will cook the turkey on their rotisserie too.

Gertrude Stein famously couldn’t decide if she wanted chestnuts (les châtaignes), mushrooms (les champignons), or oysters (les huîtres) in her Thanksgiving stuffing and so Alice B. Toklas created her signature dish by using all three. All three can be easily found at any Parisian market.

Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry sauce is a little trickier. Dried cranberries and cranberry juice started appearing in French supermarkets a few years ago, but fresh cranberries or canned sauce are still hard to find. The closest thing to fresh cranberries that you can find at most French markets are groseille. They are not the same, but their tartness and color make them a decent substitute. Otherwise, for the real thing try one of the shops that specialize in import American foods, such as the Thanksgiving Store, 20 Rue Saint-Paul, 75004.

Something Orange
A sweet potato (une patate douce) is probably the easiest thing to go with here and you’ll be sure to horrify and delight your French guests if you have the courage to put marshmallows (les guimauve) on top of it. Add this one too to your market-shopping list.

A Green and Snappy Vegetable
If you are a traditionalist and believe that only green bean (les haricots verts) casserole is the only acceptable green dish to serve, be prepared to make it from scratch or import it from the U.S. Cream of mushroom soup and pre-made crispy onions are not stocked in most French supermarkets. Here’s a great recipe and you can find everything in France if you’re feeling up to the challenge.

The saying goes that there is nothing more American than apple pie, but for us Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without a pumpkin pie (tarte a la citrouille). The Thanksgiving Store sells a limited number of Pumpkin Pies. If you feel up to breaking from tradition, just a little, there are the pumpkin cupcakes from the Sugar Daze Bakery, 20 rue Henry Monnier, 75009.

Since you don’t get off work for the holiday, we understand if you don’t have the time or energy to cook a full meal. Here are a few addresses where we’ve been told you can find the traditional meal:

[list type="check"]

  • American Chuch in Paris (communal meal): 65 Quai d'Orsay, 75007
  • Harry’s Bar: 5 Rue Daunou, 75002
  • Joe Allen: 30, rue Pierre Lescot 75001
  • Bistrot St. Martin: 25, rue Louis Blanc 75010
  • Breakfast in America: 17, rue des Ecoles, 75005


Ready to practice this new vocabulary before going to the market? Call or contact us to start taking lessons.

Photo from Paris Breakfasts.


Learn Your Colors in a Parisian Park

autumnAt French As You Like It, we are lucky enough to work with all sorts of interesting individuals with all different levels of French. From the professional singer who wants to perfect her accent to the traveling spouse who has just moved to France, we love the challenge of creating French lessons for everyone.

Whether your six or sixty, autumn in Paris is a great time to start learning French. A walk through any of the city’s many parks this time of year is the perfect classroom for learning colors, counting, and action verbs.

leavesMeet your French teacher at an entrance to the Luxembourg Gardens, Parc Monceau, or the large Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Surrounded by all the beautiful fall foliage, your teacher might start by pointing at a leaf on the ground and telling you, « Cette feuille est rouge ! » The leaf is bright red. Oh yes, it is rouge! Next she may say, « Cette feuille est jaune ! » YELLOW! You understand this color too because the leaf is a magnificent yellow. Suddenly you’re having fun and understand French.

After the colors, your teacher may introduce numbers and action verbs.  «Il ya une feuille verte, Il ya deux feuilles rouges, Il ya trois feuilles brunes, Il ya quatre feuilles oranges, Il ya cinq feuilles rouges… » Now you may think what verbs would I use in a park? Let’s conjugate marcher (to walk), courir (to run), sauter (to jump), and after all this learning how about s'asseoir (to sit). Wow, look at all new things you’ve learned to say and just by doing something you would have done anyway.

Before you know it the class will be over and and don’t be surprised if you find yourself think, who knew learning French could be such a walk in the park!

Interested in starting French lessons? Call +33 (0)6 66 10 53 64 or contact us at [email protected].

Gorgeous photos by Carin Olsson on Paris in Four Months.

Explaining Dogs in Paris

richardavedon_dovima_dogParis can sometimes feel like a city of dogs. Did you know there is one dog for every 7 Parisians? Whether you love our four-legged friend or not, everywhere you turn there’s dogs of all sizes. Big ones, little ones, well-groomed ones, wearing-sweaters ones… You see them in café’s, at the hairdressers, inside grocery stores, and even sprawled across the banquettes of fancy restaurants, but have you ever wondered are there rules for dogs in Paris? Do laws exist? Can dogs really go everywhere?

Yes and no and we’ll explain!

First, let’s talk about dog’s doing their business (also known as pooping). There are over 300,000 dogs living in Paris and they create an estimated 20 metric tons of les crottes de chien each year. Yuk! For years foreigners have moaned and groaned about all the dog poop you see on Parisian sidewalks. There are actually laws in France that say dog owners have to pick-up after their dog and you may even spot the occasional sign reminding owners about the 400EU fine if they forget their pooper scooper. Believe it or not, the French have gotten much better about cleaning up after their pets in recent years, but why is there still so much poop? Our completely unscientific explanation is that no one cleans the sidewalks regularly and so the poop quickly accumulates. For instance, in NYC many buildings have doormen who wash the sidewalks everyday. Parisian apartments have gardiens who are responsible for cleaning the interiors and exteriors (mopping entrances and polishing doorknobs) but it is the city that takes care of the sidewalk and they often pass by once a week. Parisians are making an effort, but it only takes a couple poopy offenders to make the sidewalks a mess!

Can dogs go on public transportation?

In theory, only very small dogs that can fit in a bag or carrier are allowed onto the Paris metro. The same rule applies to Paris buses too. In practice, Paris metro agents tend to be somewhat lenient with owners who bring larger dogs onto the metro, provided the dog is on a leash and has a muzzle. Larger dogs are allowed on the RER, but they have a special dog ticket, be muzzled and on a leash.

How can you tell if a dog isn’t allowed in a shop or restaurant?

sitwayxnljxxamsd2wd1rivno1_5001More and more bakeries and supermarkets in Paris are enforcing no dogs allowed policies. Look for signs that say, pas de chien, même tenus en laisse (no dogs - even on a leash). That said there are still many Parisians who are sure that rule doesn’t apply to them. Occasionally you will hear a shop owner scolding someone for trying to bring a dog into the store, but don’t be surprised if the rule isn’t enforced for regular customers. If you have a dog-phobia or are traveling with small children, don’t trust that just because the sign says no dogs, there won’t be any dogs around!

Are dogs allowed in parks?

Now here’s where Paris’ dog culture gets odd. Dogs are not allowed in most parks. The bigger parks such as the Tuilleries Gardens and Luxembourg Gardens have small areas set aside for dogs, but in your smaller neighborhood parks, dogs are not welcome. Some one once told us the reason dogs aren’t allowed in parks is because Parisians are so bad about picking up after their dogs that no one wants the parks to be covered in dog do-do. No idea if this is true, but we think it’s a funny explanation.

For those of you who want to expand your canine vocabulary, here’s a list of useful vocabulary:

dog: un chien

doggie or small dog: un toutou

large dog: un gros chien, molosse, ou dogue

derogatory words for dogs: clébard ou clebs

no dogs - even on a leash = pas de chien, même tenus en laisse

leash: une laisse

muzzle : une muselière

pet store: une animalerie

dog grooming : toilettage pour chien

Interested in learning more about Parisian culture and traditions while improving your language skills? Call or contact us here to organize private French lessons in Paris.

Photos from the Paris Apartment.

Searching for the Best Croissant in French

coissant2France’s motto may be “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity), but trust us that égalité does not apply to croissants. That perfect croissant is both butter and flaky without being too greasy and definitely not stale. This perfection can be extremely hard to find, but worth the search. Ask any Parisian about their neighborhood and they’ll have no problem ranking the quality of pastries and breads at all the nearby bakeries.

Want to feel like a real Parisian? Why not combine a croissant tasting tour with a private French lesson? Together we’ll find an easy walking route in your favorite part of Paris with five or six boulangeries (bakeries) along the way. In each bakery you will practice your French by purchasing a croissant and then we’ll continue on our way coissantwhile tasting it. You will be amazed at the difference between each boulangerie. One croissant may be blah! But oh, la, la it is just next door to a school with a great selection of candies.  That’s probably why it is still in business. It may also suddenly make sense why one boulangerie has a line out the door every Saturday morning and the one around the corner is empty. A croissant tour is a great way to start understanding the subtle dynamics of Parisian neighborhoods and feel like an insider in your favorite neighborhood.

Here are some phrases and words you may practice or hear during the tasting tour:

How much is it?            Combien cela coûte?

Can I help you?            Puis-je vous aider ?

What are your opening hours?            Quelles sont vos heures d’ouvertures ?

The bakery is open from 8 to 10            La boulangerie est ouvert de 8h à 22h

I don’t understand, can you repeat slower, please?            Je ne comprends pas, pouvez vous répéter plus lentement, s’il vous plaît ?

I beg your pardon?            Pardon ?

Good bye            Au revoir

Have a good day            Bonne journée

To buy: acheter; to look for: chercher  quelque chose; to pay for something: payer  quelque chose; to order: commander: to stand in line: faire la queue

This would also be a great opportunity to learn about the different breads and pastries sold at a French bakery. Here’s a shot list to get you started:

la baguette: long thin loaf; le bâtard: thicker loaf; la boule: round loaf; la ficelle: very thin loaf; le petit pain: roll; la farine: flour; le blé: wheat ; le levain: sourdough; le seigle: rye; la levure: commercial yeast; la mie: crumb; la croûte: crust                        

Interested in private French lessons in Paris? Call or contact us to organize lessons to better get to know a favorite neighborhood or at a historical site “off the beaten path.”

Photos by Robyn Lee on Flicker.