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 It’s an outdated French cliché!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.

Want all the vocabulary of the lesson ?

Want to read this lesson later ?

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 to catch a waiter’s attention in a restaurant (or a café) is rude and outdated.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!

Want to save this for later ?

And now:

→ If you enjoyed this lesson (and/or learned something new) – why not share this lesson with a francophile friend? You can talk about it afterwards! You’ll learn much more if you have social support from your friends 🙂

Double your Frenchness! Get my 10-day “Everyday French Crash Course” and learn more spoken French for free. Students love it! Start now and you’ll get Lesson 01 right in your inbox, straight away.

Click here to sign up for my FREE Everyday French Crash Course

Join the conversation!

  • 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

  • Double Your Frenchness

    Crash Course

    Enroll in in my free 10-lesson course that has helped thousands like you 2x their Everyday French in 10 days!

    Share this post!

    Share on facebook
    Share on google
    Share on twitter
    Share on linkedin
    >

    Download this lesson as a PDF!

    Please enter your name and email address to get the lesson as a free PDF!