Why You Shouldn’t Use “Garçon” to Call a Waiter

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 It’s an outdated French cliché!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 to catch a waiter’s attention in a restaurant (or a café) is rude and outdated.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” !

For example:

  • 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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Join the conversation!

  • Je m’ excuse. Je n’ avais pas l’ intention de mettre “dommage” à la fin de mon dernier message -mais le mot “désolée “. Aussi mon prénom est un nom de fille en Angleterre- comme Jeanne en France.

  • Pourquoi avez-vous mis les lettres “es” à la fin du mot “allé” dans la phrase “on est allées balader”. Je crois que ce n’est pas correct. Ce serait “ on est allé “ Dommage.

    • Bonjour Jean,

      L’accord avec le pronom on dépend largement de ce à quoi il se rapporte.

      Lorsque on = tout le monde, les gens en général, on remplace le il et est de la troisième personne du singulier.
      On peut également se mettre à la place de nous. L’accord se fait alors comme si le on était de la première personne du pluriel avec les participes passés. Cet emploi de on se fait à l’oral. On préfère largement utiliser le on à la place du nous à l’oral.

      Bonne journée,

      Comme Une Française Team

  • Bonjour Géraldine! In a latest episode of Emily in Paris season 2, Sylvie actually calls out “Garçon” at a restaurant outside the Louvre… Is this somehow acceptable again? I will never say it – was taught never to say it – but can Sylvie get away with it because she’s French, or is this still a complete faux pas? (And wouldn’t the actress playing Sylvie say something?)

    • Bonjour Michelle,

      I would definitely use “Monsieur” instead of “Garçon”. I noticed that in Season 2 as well.

      Comme Une Française Team

  • D’ac. Je comprend. I would say Pardon Monsieur et s’il vous plait comme vous. No probleme. Je s’apprie votre video instruction c’est apres midi. 🙂 Aussi votre petite amie est l’answer a votre question. Tout a l’heure. Respect Katherine Marsh

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