Restaurant Etiquette : Don’t Share Bills With French Friends

How do you handle paying for the bill at a restaurant in France, among French friends? Here is a list of French expressions we use to make clear who is going to pay, as well as cultural tips.

There is much to say about French table etiquette, and I wrote many articles on this blog about this subject.

However, I believe the way French people address the bill at a restaurant requested a bit of attention.

Don’t Talk About Money in France

Talking about money is considered vulgar by French people, so we don’t like to share the bill at the end of a meal.

It’s part of our French politeness to take turn treating friends, and we kind of keep track mentally of who hosted last, who paid for a restaurant etc…

This is especially true if the party is only two people or two couples.

Friends can say it up front:

  • “Ce soir, c’est nous qui vous invitons”
    (Tonight, it’s on us.).

Do Fight to Pay the Bill

Or, just grab the bill when it arrives. Friends often argue on who will pay the bill, meaning everybody argues that they want to pay the whole bill.

Who is going to pay the bill among French friends is often settled by:

  • “Non, j’insiste. Vous nous inviterez la prochaine fois”
    (No, I insist. You’ll invite us next time),
  • or “Non, non, c’est à notre tour, c’est vous qui nous avez invités la dernière fois”
    (No, no, it’s our turn, you invited us last time.)

Be Precise About Your Invitation

Be aware of the difference between:

  • “Je voudrais vous inviter au restaurant”
    I’d like to invite you to a restaurant, which means the person will pay the whole bill,

and

  • “Vous voulez venir avec nous au restaurant ce soir?”
    Would you like to join us in a restaurant tonight?)

Or, more casual:

  • “On se fait un resto ce soir?”
    Why don’t we eat out tonight?

In both cases, it’s unclear on who is paying.

If you enjoyed this article, I recommend you read “how to comment about food in French” and “what about “le” French doggy bag?”

Learn French in context, check out French Today’s downloadable French audiobooks: French Today’s bilingual novels are recorded at different speeds and enunciation, and focus on today’s modern glided pronunciation. 

Tagged Under: