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Non-drinker in France

I don't drink alcohol, but don't have a problem w/ people and places where drinking is part of the scene. I'll be traveling w/ my wife and she drinks. If drinking is the only reason to go to a place, then we wouldn't pick it, but otherwise it's not a concern. What I'm wondering is how are non-drinkers viewed in France in general, and in restaurants in particular? And how do the locals view you in the towns/villages where wine might be their raison d'etre?

Posted by
408 posts

Won't raise an eyebrow.

Not all French folks drink alcohol.

Posted by
23431 posts

Absolutely no different than the US. If you don't drink, don't drink. Don't need to make a big deal out of it. Just order a soft drink or water.

Posted by
8000 posts

Been to France 9 or 10 times. The French do not have a view of non-drinkers in restaurants. The wait staff does not force alcohol on diners or assume that a diner wants alcohol. It is just like here. As long as you don't tour any vineyards in a region oriented on the wine industry you will not really notice anything.

People that do not say Bonjour (i.e. Hello or Good morning) when entering service establishments get more indifference from the French than teetolaters; so remember to do that

Posted by
6788 posts

I think the only reaction, if any, would be the classic French shrug, "vive la diference", and the French equivalent of "great - more for me."

Not an issue. Cross this off your list of things to worry about.

Posted by
8171 posts

I cannot stress enough how little anyone will care what you drink. I don't understand where people get the idea that waiters stand clucking over people who don't order wine. We drink some but not always and no one has ever made an issue at all in high end restaurants or local bistrots when we don't order wine, or my husband does but I don't. I have been with groups at local wine bars sharing glasses and appetizers where one of the party orders a Perrier and no one raises an eyebrow.

You can also order tap water for free and this is the custom for most locals rather than buying pricey bottled water.

Posted by
27359 posts

I spent 88 days in France last summer. Drank no alcohol. No one cared. I did, however, pay for bottled water. I saw carafes of tap water on other tables, but those folks had also ordered wine, so I didn't try to get free water.

If ordering bottled water, you need to specify whether you want still water or fizzy water.

Posted by
3772 posts

I spent the summer of 2013 in the Burgundy region with my family and a friend who does not drink. No one cared and my husband and I were quite happy because we had an ever-ready designated driver. I am not sure why you think anyone would really care or say anything.

Posted by
2340 posts

hi RW
don't let this worry you at all. last year 4 of us ladies spent a week in paris and my friends 31yo daughter doesn't drink and we had a fabulous time. she'd have water or a soda. we did a C2V tour in reims and she loved it. we also did a prosecco tour outside venice and we all had a good time. there are lots of non drinkers in france. just have a good time and enjoy all the sites, people watch, sit in a cafe and watch the world go by.

Posted by
2916 posts

The French hate teetotalers. That's why they voted Sarkozy out. Only kidding, there were good reasons why they voted him out. And all the comments above are accurate. A much higher percentage of the French drink alcohol than do Americans, but if you don't, it's no problem anywhere.

Posted by
4684 posts

It's up to you, but I think that if you are not ordering alcoholic drinks, it is considerate to the restaurant owner to get brand-name mineral water instead of free tap water. A lot of restaurants make their money on drinks rather than food.

Posted by
1994 posts

People could really care less what you drink. With a large Muslim population as well as teetotalers, not all French drink wine. Unless you're visiting a winery, I've never had any raised eyebrows when ordering mineral water instead of alcohol. Have a great time.

Posted by
11507 posts

Actaevn and anyone else , tap water is free and anyone can ask for it , as long as it’s not the only thing you order . So order a coffee , ask for water , order a sandwich , ask for water . Tap water is free and very tasty .

Posted by
3772 posts

There is no obligation to order bottled water at a place where you are having a meal if you want tap water. If you are sitting at a table and ordering nothing but something to drink and you choose tap water, that is obviously not okay. I totally agree with Pat on this one.

Posted by
4 posts

I was hoping to get a majority of responses telling me not to worry, but it appears to be a landslide - thanks everyone!

Posted by
9 posts

I’m an American who now lives in Paris, and I don’t drink, either. I order tap water or sometimes a cup of tea afterwards. No one cares!

Posted by
5950 posts

For environmental and budget reasons (but more the first) I order tap water. The tap water in France is excellent. There are some places in Europe (Barcelona for one) that acted as if they don't even have tap water so we ordered soda or wine and some places that charge for a glass of tap water (happened often to me in Switzerland and Austria) but not in France. Unless I would actually enjoy a sparkling water over tap water, I would not personally purchase a bottle of water.

When I visited Paris with my then 19 year old daughters, one typically ordered wine with me, the other soda. No one cared in the least.

Posted by
11294 posts

France is one country in Europe where it's very easy to get tap water. Just ask for a "carafe d'eau." You'll see one on almost all of the other tables. You can get this with whatever you're ordering.

Note that your waiter may ask if you want wine. But this is similar to being asked if you want dessert - they're just being thorough, not trying to pressure you. Just say no, and they will move on. But the vast majority of the time, they will simply ask what you want to drink, you will state your wish, and that will be that. I often get a Coke Zero with my meals, and I've never had so much as a raised eyebrow at this.

A great drink at cafes (not usually available at restaurants) is a citron pressé. This is a "deconstructed lemonade." They bring you fresh squeezed lemon juice, sugar, and water, and you mix it yourself to taste. There are other non-alcoholic beverages in cafes that we don't have in the US - look into this so you can try some.

I know you didn't mention Italy, but I'll just say that it's the same as France in this regard - there's no pressure to drink there either. For some reason, both of these countries have the same image in the US, that everyone is guzzling alcohol all the time at every meal, and that if you don't do the same you will be ostracized. In truth, many people in both countries will not be having alcohol (for all kinds of reasons), and there's no pressure at all to do so in restaurants.

Posted by
3941 posts

Not a drinker - never an issue in ANY country we've visited - UK, Germany, Italy, France...