In my opinion, there is nothing more Parisian then sitting in a café and disappearing for an hour.
Visiting a Parisian café is probably one of the more touristy activities to partake in, along with buying street crêpes. However, there is something to be enjoyed by how relaxed café culture is here.
In the United States, if I were to sit down in a restaurant and only order a coffee, I might get a weird look from the waiter. Maybe it’s just me, but I felt that if I sat down somewhere, I had to order food.
We don’t just sit and nurse a drink in the States like they do here in Paris.
Personally, I think it is because of the tip pressure on waiters.
People don’t really tip in Paris. Gratuity is included in the price of a meal. That is why if I were to sit down rather than take my coffee straight at the bar, it will jump in price by a euro. That’s why I have never felt rushed to leave — I am not being pushed out the door to make way for an empty-stomached diner.
However there are always exceptions to this rule — tourist traps.
I was talking about this with my host mother the other day. We were discussing touristy things to do in Paris on one of my free weekends, and I mentioned Angelina, a place well known for their hot chocolate. She quickly talked me out of it.
It’s because the waiters will rush you in and out, she said.
At my look of confusion, she continued.
Normally a café will not push you because they are not required to turn tables as often as most American restaurants do. However, at a place like Angelina, the employees are severely underpaid, she said. My guess is because they need so many people to keep up with the demand. They either don’t want to or can’t pay them properly.
Much like in the U.S., where I have heard waiters can get paid as low as $3 an hour, these waiters would be rushed to increase volume and therefore their pay. American waiters make up the difference by getting tips.
I just don’t know what the French do to make up the difference.
Since I know we don’t usually tip outside of what’s built in the price, I can only assume that the more customers the waiters serve, the better their pay is.
Unfortunately, I don’t think anything will change soon for the plight of the café worker.
However, if anything, I have learned one thing. If you want to spend a stereotypically Parisian afternoon sipping coffee, while still being treated well, don’t go anywhere near the tourist traps.
Follow columnist Audrey Perkins on Twitter @AudreyNLP.