Who hasn’t dreamed of a picnic for two on the banks of the Seine or ducking in and out of markets in Montmarte like a local? Whether your trip to the City of Lights includes a tour of the iconic Eiffel Tower or a stroll through the Louvre, here are five French phrases you should know before. Because taking care of basic necessities is essential so you can get your tourist on like a real Parisian.
1. La dame de fer (French Translation: “The Iron Lady”)
Say hello to the Eiffel Tower or “The Iron Lady” (la dame de fer) as the French like to call her. She stands 324 meters tall and, for several decades, was the tallest structure in the world. The Iron Lady maintains her luster due to a beauty regime that involves being painted by hand 18 times since her construction. Originally red-brown, then yellow ochre, La dame de fer now sports the fashionable bronze sheen you see today.
2. L’addition, s’il vous plaît (French Translation: “The bill, please”)
One thing you’ll notice when you travel to France and throughout Europe is that the wait staff definitely don’t crowd you. While some tourists might confuse this custom as poor service, in France it’s considered rude for wait staff to hover or make diners feel rushed. Meals are relaxed, leisurely affairs and some Parisians might spend hours loitering at cafe tables to watch the city go by. When you’re ready to go, simply make eye contact or subtly raise your hand to attract attention and say l’addition, s’il vous plaît.
3. Un billet, s’il vous plaît. (French Translation: “Ticket Please”)
Whether you’re taking a sunset cruise on the Seine or elbowing your way in for a view of the Mona Lisa, there are many reasons you’ll need to purchase a ticket or un billet. If you decided to take the full tour of the Eiffel Tower, purchase a ticket to ride the elevator all the way up to the third-floor observation platform which provides Insta-worthy pics of the City of Light. And even if you’re not in love with heights, you can still float away on the bubbles at the Eiffel’s Bar A Champagne. Un billet, s’il vous plait never sounded so good.
4. Où sont les toilettes ? (French Translation: “Where’s the bathroom?”)
Finding a free public restroom in Paris can be a bit like puzzling out the Da Vinci Code. Step away from the map and cipher for now because you can use the loo at the Eiffel Tower. There are restrooms on both the second and third floor for those who need to figure out où sont les toilettes sooner rather than later.
5. Je n’en crois pas mes yeux! (French Translation: “I can’t believe my eyes!”)
Sunset is really the best time to wander along the River Seine and marvel at The Iron Lady from afar or just take in the many marvelous baroque buildings. At dusk, Paris lives up to its moniker of the City of Lights by igniting the Eiffel Tower with 20,000 flashing bulbs every hour on the hour. While it may seem a bit cheesy in theory, you’ll find yourself gasping in awe when you witness the spectacle. Perhaps if you shout je n’en crois pas mes yeux, you’ll feel less like a tacky tourist. See—those French lessons do come in handy.
What are some other basic French phrases?(H3)
You’ll want to sprinkle your French conversations with plenty of courtesy since it’s an integral part of French culture. Start with s’il vous plaît (please) and merci (thank you). It’s also customary to always greet a shop owner when you enter with bonjour and make eye contact. Tack on polite titles like monsieur or madame to your French conversations and you may notice a bit of a thaw from native French speakers who appreciate the effort.
What is the quickest way to learn French?
There are no shortcuts to learning a language, but it’s important to focus on feeling confident with everyday conversations and basic phrases rather than memorizing large vocabulary lists. The Rosetta Stone app offers learning features like Phrasebook so beginning language learners can have a quick reference for those essential French phrases.