Ordering in french

This evening my friend in Paris said that I should make the reservation for our dinner at a nearby French restaurant, and she was quite insistent that I do this in french (because it would be good for me).

I called up the restaurant and made a reservation for 8pm (actually for “vingt heures”, which means 20 hours, if you do it in french, because they are on a 24 hour clock). I stumbled a bit here and there, but I thought I was doing pretty well, until the pleasant sounding guy on the other end switched into english.

Please understand that for an American, speaking to French people in french and having them reply in english is a total fail. They probably think they are being polite (or, that is, I hope they do), but to us it’s like being punched in the stomach, the cultural equivalent of “you clueless American, how could a boob like you ever think you could speak to us in our own language and not be found out?”

If you know what I mean.

But then my friend realized it would be better to change the reservation for 7:30pm, and she told me to call the restaurant back. This time, I was resolved to go for the win.

When that same man got on the line, I plunged forward, speaking in french with a firm resolve, and a renewed assurance borne from my fear of failure. I was commanding, yet I was polite. I gave a clear and unambiguous account of myself and of the situation. I was very french.

And I was rewarded. This time, the man never broke into english, but rather continued the entire conversation to its conclusion in french.

Success! My life was validated. My entire reason for existing on this planet suddenly held meaning, flavor, resonance. I realized that from this moment forth in my life, there would be nothing I could not do, nothing I could not accomplish with my vast, almost God-like powers.

For I had ordered a reservation dans la belle langue français. And had been given a response — oh my foes and oh my friends — in french.

Yes! One for the win. 🙂

† It’s funnier if you read the comments

12 Responses to “Ordering in french”

  1. Marc says:

    dans la belle langue françaisE

  2. Sharon says:

    Way to kill a buzz, Marc! Ken, I guess it is fortunate that you didn’t have to text the request to the restaurant 😉

  3. admin says:

    No worries Sharon. I’d actually taken that last letter off, just in case some civic minded french person out there felt the need to fix something. 🙂

  4. Sharon says:

    🙂 🙂

  5. Sharon says:

    BTW, I’ve been wondering how a vegan fares dining out in Paris. It seems like it would not be easy. Talk about cultural barriers!

  6. admin says:

    Not so much of a problem these days. My four most recent meals out in Paris (all in the company non-vegans, who in every case seemed to be delighted):

    Krishna Bhavan (24 Rue Cail, 75010 Paris)
    Indian, went for lunch — many vegan options

    Tien Hiang (92 Rue Chemin Vert, 75011 Paris)
    Chinese, went for dinner — all vegan and all delicious

    The Gentle Gourmet (17 Rue Duret, 75116 Paris)
    Gourmet Sunday brunch — all vegan and amazing!!!

    Le Grenier de Notre Dame (18 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris)
    Veggie and vegan options, delicious food, elegant decor, great service.

  7. Bernadette says:



  8. Sharon says:

    Sounds wonderful! Good to know.

  9. x says:

    You know, sometimes they’re just as eager to practice their English as you your French.

  10. sally says:

    Le singe est dans l’arbre.

  11. admin says:

    X: Yes, that’s very true, and that’s why the situation is so interesting — because it is not at all simple.

    Sally: That’s also very true. 🙂

  12. mari says:

    When I moved in with my French husband in southern France and still learning French, I used to make reservations in French putting the heaviest American accent ON PURPOSE, so that the French guy on the other end will be forced to switch to English: “uhhh.. just a momeeent, madame…” 🙂

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