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10 Essential Phrases To Survive Your French Vacation

Traveling to a French speaking country? These 10 sentences will help you survive some common situations: greetings, the boulangerie, asking for directions, even how to complain!

Before your holiday in a French-speaking country, rather than learning how to say, "Arthur is a parrot" or "Benoît is in the kitchen," you might want to learn these 10 useful (and really French!) sentences that will make you sound like a real native!

1. Je m’appelle… — "My name is…" (literally, "I call myself")

Rather than "mon nom est," this is the right way to introduce yourself in French.

2. Enchanté(e) ! — "Nice to meet you!"

This is what you should say if the person you’ve just introduced yourself to answers back.

3. Comment ça va ? — "How’s it going?"

If you studied French in school, you probably learned to say, "Comment allez-vous?" or "Comment vas-tu?" Avoid having to choose between "vous" (polite way to address someone) and "tu" (more familiar) with this one casual phrase that covers all your bases.

4. Une baguette pas trop cuite, s’il vous plaît ! — "A baguette, not over-baked, please."

Buying a baguette is a sacred ritual in France, and it all starts at the counter of the boulangerie ("bakery"). An important part of the ritual is specifying how baked you want your baguette. Some like it very crispy, but most French people order it "not over-baked." To really make an impression, order a "tradi," the nickname for a more rustic (but even more delicious) version of the usual baguette, called "baguette tradition."

5. Et avec ceci ? — What else?

Congratulations, you successfully ordered your baguette. You think the bakery test is over and you’re free to go? Not so fast. This is now the moment when the baker asks you with a kind and polite smile: "Et avec ça ?" or "Et avec ceci ?"

6. Ce sera tout, merci ! — "That’s it, thank you!"

A question you should answer with the same kind and polite smile and a singing "Ce sera tout, merci !" You can expect this same exchange to happen in most food shops.

But the ritual is not complete! Don’t forget to immediately bite into your baguette as soon as you step out of the bakery. Otherwise, to quote Paul Taylor, a little boulangère ("baker") will fall down dead somewhere in the world.

7. Franchement, c’était pas terrible — "It wasn’t anything special" (lit. "Frankly, it was not terrible.")

You just had lunch in a fancy restaurant but expected more? Though this might be unlikely to happen, this sentence will express your (fictional) gastronomical disappointment. You can use it in any other situation when your expectations weren’t filled. Beware, if you travel in France (Canada, Belgium and any other French-speaking country, do not feel offended by this!), you will probably hear this sentence quite often. French people love to complain about everything!

8. Où sont les toilettes ? — "Where are the restrooms?"

Maybe you’re asking this as a consequence of a bad meal… but as already mentioned, this is almost impossible.

9. Je cherche la rue/le musée/le bâtiment… — "I am looking for the street/the museum/the building…"

Lost? This how to ask someone for directions.

10. Et voilà ! — "That’s it!"

This popular exclamation usually signifies the conclusion or the result of a process, and also often expresses a certain kind of satisfaction. This expression is particularly appropriate when your trip is over and you are sitting in the plane, remembering all the beautiful (or less beautiful) experiences from your vacation. A satisfied "Et voilà" perfectly sums it all up!

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