Ordering food in a foreign country can be intimidating, especially if you don't speak the language, and even more especially when eating is taken seriously, like it is in France. Follow these tips and you'll be able to buy your baguette with confidence next time you're in the City of Light.
1. On entering, greet the salesperson with “Bonjour, madame,” or “Bonjour, monsieur,” and make eye contact.
2. Pay with coins—or small-denomination notes—unless you’re spending 20 euro or more.
3. Don’t fumble with excessive questions in bad French. If you can, listen as the people in line ahead of you order, and borrow a phrase or two.
4. Specify sliced or not sliced: tranché or pas tranché.
5. If you’re eating alone, you may ask for a half-size demi baguette.
6. Depending on your preference, ask for a baguette that’s bien cuite (well cooked and crusty) or pas trop cuite (soft and slightly doughy on the inside).
7. Whole grain bread, tourtes (meat pies), and miches (round white loaves) are often sold by weight, so you can either specify a quantity in grams or simply ask for une demi (half) or un quart (quarter).
8. While salespeople don’t allow customers to dither over bread, feel free to take your time and ask questions about the more costly cakes and fruit tarts.
9. Shop during the weekend for specialty breads such as kugelhopf or large sugared brioches.
10. To get the freshest bread, some French people routinely visit their bakeries twice a day. Look for displayed baking times.
11. Ask for pains bio (organic loaves), which are increasingly common.
12. Those with gluten intolerance can ask for pain sans gluten.
13. Close out your visit with “Merci, au revoir. Bonne journée!”
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