As you probably already know, garçon is the French word for “boy.”
In some movies set in France, you may have also heard it used in a slightly different way — like when the American protagonist calls a waiter by raising their hand and calling “Garçon!”*
Please don’t do that. It’s an outdated French cliché!
In today’s lesson, I want to show you what you can use to signal a waiter instead, and how you can still use the word “garçon” without being condescending.
Let’s dive in.
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1) Garçon = un serveur
In French, we do call a male waiter un garçon (= “a boy” literally.)
Don’t forget that “ç” (or “c cédille”) sounds like an “s”. If you forget the “cédille”, then the word reads like “garr con”, and “con” is a rude French word that means “stupid”!
A waiter in a café is sometimes called un garçon de café, but French people use the word un serveur much more often, for any type of waiter. A waitress is une serveuse.
Yelling “Garçon !” to catch a waiter’s attention in a restaurant (or a café) is rude and outdated.
2) What you can use instead
To call a waiter in a French restaurant, you only have to:
- Raise your hand
- Make eye contact
- Say “s’il vous plaît !” (= please)
It’s important to be polite to your waiter!
Other sentences you can use:
- L’addition, s’il vous plaît. = The check, please.
- On peut avoir une carafe d’eau, s’il vous plaît ? = Can we have a jug a tap water, please?
- On peut avoir plus de pain, s’il vous plaît ? = Can we have some more bread, please?
Remember, in French restaurants, bread and tap water are free.
French waiters aren’t there to be “your friend.” They won’t share their name, for example, or try to make conversation. They’re here to take your order and bring your food, and let you enjoy this social occasion with your friends.
But don’t hesitate to ask questions about the menu and the dishes, they’ll be happy to give you more information.
So, please don’t mistake these cultural differences with rudeness. Though some waiters can certainly be rude – even by French standards. It happens, and if you had to live through a bad experience, I’m sorry about that!
3) Un garçon = un mec
- In everyday French, un garçon is more often used to mean “a boy,” a young male person. Again, don’t forget the “ç = c cédille” !
- Mon garçon = my child, my son.
- Un petit garçon = a small boy.
It can be condescending to use garçon for a young man (just like “boy” in English). In everyday slang, you can use un mec / un gars (= a dude, a guy) instead.
When referring to a group for male friends, though, les garçons is acceptable.
On est allées se balader avec Julie, pendant que les garçons font la cuisine.
(= We went for a walk with Julie, while the boys prepared the food.)
Now, how would you say “your boy” when referring to your close friend or your boyfriend?
What other French clichés should you avoid?
What’s the deal with “le c cédille” ?
Learn more about French culture and French language with these lessons:
À tout de suite.
I’ll see you in the next video!
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