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Explaining that I do not drink alcohol

I'll be spending two weeks in Paris in March, and looking forward to it a lot (it's my first time in France). My only concern is that I do not drink alcohol. I anticipate lots of waitstaff looking at me as if I'm insane when I refuse a glass of wine. Any suggestions as to the best way to say, in French, that I don't drink? My French is pretty limited. Thanks!

Posted by
672 posts

I don't remember waitstaff in Paris ever offering me any particular beverage. If you don't order wine, I doubt that anyone will offer it to you. Just order what you want to drink.

Posted by
9363 posts

I don't think you need to worry about it. Why would a waiter offer you wine you didn't order? There is no need to explain anything to anyone, and there are lots of nonalcoholic options to drink.

Posted by
2742 posts

I also wonder why you would worry about this. You order what you like. Waiters don't order for you. I don't care for alcohol, incl. beer, and after many trips to Germany and Austria, aside from the occasional Radler beer, drink either water or Coke at dinners out. Don't give it another thought and enjoy your trip.

Paul

Posted by
6914 posts

When I was young I worried about what others thought of me. When I was a bit older, I didn't care what other people thought of me. When I grew old, I realized that others were not thinking about me at all.

No one cares what you drink. You don't need to 'explain' your choices to anyone. If you order a coke with meal you will look jejune, but no one will care. Ordering tap water is perfectly normal and will save money. If you want wine order it, if you don't no one will care or urge you to do so. No one cares. Seriously.

Posted by
2081 posts

forbes,

I found out the hard way that my genes dont like spirits.

But i have never had alcohol pushed on me in France or any other place in my travels. They may ask if you would like some Wine with your meal, but "just say no" works. The only time i had it pushed was many many years ago with some French co-workers and with some really good sea food. But i had some coke which the french co-workers thought was funny, if not a bit of an insult. Once my issue was conveyed, they understood.

If you have a chance and like OJ, you may want to try the Fresh Squeezed OJ around town. It beats anything i have had over there in a long time.

happy trails.

Posted by
3602 posts

" When I was young I worried about what others thought of me. When I was a bit older, I didn't care what other people thought of me. When I grew old, I realized that others were not thinking about me at all. " -------------- Well said Janet !

Posted by
308 posts

Hi,
I agree with the above posters. The waiter may specifically ask you whether you want still or sparkling water but wine, no.

Posted by
117 posts

Yep, you order what you want, they bring it to you. Nothing to worry about here. Enjoy.

Posted by
10694 posts

Agree with everyone else and will add no explanation is necessary. Do figure out early on if you like still or sparkling water as that is the only thing wait staff have ever asked me about.

Posted by
31627 posts

forbes,

I definitely agree with the others. The servers will only bring what you order. There's no requirement to drink wine in France unless you want to. Also, most of the servers you'll encounter will speak English to some extent.

Posted by
8854 posts

Plenty of French people don't drink alcohol. Servers aren't pushy, so don't feel intimidated. Just enjoy.

Posted by
5818 posts

French wait staff would be happy to serve bottled water, still or with gas, in lieu of wine. Just don't order milk during dinner. An adult friend traveling with a college ages daughter tried to order milk during dinner. She said that a Paris waiter refused the order telling her that only children drink milk with dinner. No report as to the specific restaurant.

Posted by
3768 posts

One of the joys of traveling to France, and many other places, is being able to get sparkling water at the table. My husband will often have a glass of wine, but we both have eau minérale gazeuse at every meal possible and at home (apartment or room). I have never experienced any negative reaction from anyone for not drinking wine, and I have never been anywhere that didn't have non-alcoholic options. I don't know about in Paris, but when we were in Belgium and Holland in the spring of 2013, I found a new favorite that I'd never seen before -- bottled sweetened Lipton iced tea with lemon and made with sparkling water. I wish I could buy that here.

Posted by
6914 posts

When they ask if you want still or sparkling water they are 'upselling' you to buy bottled water rather than just drink the free tap water that is the norm in most French restaurants. I have been at Les Ombres for lunch and paid a lot for a bottle of sparkling water and noticed that only tourists seemed to be drinking it. All the local businesspeople having lunch seemed to have a carafe of water on their tables -- for free.

One of the easiest ways to save money touring in France is to routinely drink tap water Many restaurants keep chilled carafes just for this purpose. It is totally normal and routine. Of course if you prefer bottled water go for it. But while waiters won't push wine, they do try to push pricey water when water is free if you ask.

Posted by
11450 posts

" une carafe d'eau si vous plait" is all you need to say to get a carafe of perfectly fine tap water.

You may order tap water any time you order food.

No one will insist you drink alcohol.. anymore then they would at home! All French are not winos.. I know some that do not drink and they seem to have no problems going out to eat.

Posted by
11294 posts

"When I was young I worried about what others thought of me. When I was a bit older, I didn't care what other people thought of me. When I grew old, I realized that others were not thinking about me at all."

Wonderful, Janet!

As everyone has said, order whatever you want to drink, and it will be brought to you. While a waiter may ask if you want wine, it's just a question (like asking if you want dessert); they will not "push" it in any way, and you can simply say "no" with no further explanation. I often order a Coke Zero with my meals, and I have never had so much as a raised eyebrow in response. And I agree that France is one country where it's not only easy to get tap water, it's what almost all the "natives" will be drinking. Use Pat's phrase to make sure you're not sold bottled water, unless that's what you want.

In cafes (as opposed to restaurants), there will be a wide variety of beverages available. My favorite is a citron pressé. It's fresh squeezed lemon juice, water, and sugar, all separate; you mix them to your taste.

Posted by
74 posts

I don't drink any alcohol, and have visited Paris twice (I hope to do so again soon, although I was just there in October.) I have never had the slightest issue with waitstaff or anyone else. The Parisian tap water tastes wonderful to my palate, and the waitstaff will get you more water if you finish the carafe. I should add what I hope everyone knows: that the tap water is perfectly safe.