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20 phrases to use for France’s reopening of bars and cafés

Forgotten how to speak French, socialise or both during the weeks of lockdown measures, bar closures and curfews? Here are some handy phrases to use now that you can meet up with friends for a glass of wine (or three) at your local café.

20 phrases to use for France's reopening of bars and cafés
Ready to chat in France over coffee again? Photo: BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

While France’s partial lockdown was quite relaxed compared to the ones imposed in spring and autumn last year, socialising has been dramatically diminished, and many have spent the past couple of months seeing few other people than their own household.

In case your French suffered as a consequence of the lack of a social life, here are some phrases which will help you make that crucial small talk now that bar, restaurant and café terraces are welcoming customers again.

Tellement hâte ! – ‘So excited!’ When you are making plans to meet up with friends at that long closed café terrace, you can add this phrase to emphasise how thrilled you are about seeing them, getting that sit-down coffee, or both. J’ai trop hâte (I’m too excited), underlines it even more.

Ça fait un bail – It’s been a while’, or ‘long time, no see!’ Say this when you finally meet up with those friends and acquaintances you haven’t seen in months.

Ça fait trop longtemps – ‘It’s been too long’. This is a good phrase to underline that it has been long – way too long – since you saw your friends. 

Oui, s’il vous plaÎt – Yes, please. We would like that extra glass of wine, thank you very much. Photo: Martin BUREAU / AFP

Vous m’avez manqué / tu m’as manqué –  I’ve missed you (plural and singular). Can also be employed in the negative if the in-laws are already getting on your nerves.

Ça me fait vraiment du bien de vous / te revoir – ‘It’s so good to see you again’. Say this to show that seeing your friends is filling you up with good vibes you lacked alone in your apartment or house.

Qu’est-ce que tu deviens ? – It literally means ‘What are you becoming?’, but is a common expression when catching up with people you haven’t seen in a while. It’s similar to saying, ‘What’s new?’ or ‘What have you been up to?’ and is sufficiently vague to invite the listener to tell you about any changes in their lives.

READ ALSO The 9 French words you need to be very, very careful when pronouncing

Quoi de neuf ? – ‘What’s new?’ A bit slangier, but also one to ask about what is going on in a person’s life.

Tu t’en es sorti pendant le confinement ? – ‘Did you manage alright during the lockdown?’ A lot of people have been struggling to cope with the long period of isolation, and if you want to show your friend some empathy this is a good way to ask.

Last summer in Paris. Photo: Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

Je me sens au top ! – ‘I feel great!’ or ‘Never felt better!’ If your friends ask you how your are doing and you are just oh-so-excited about finally being able to make use of some of the best things France has to offer (cafés, bars, restaurants, museums, cinemas – take your pick). This phrase really communicates that you are feeling better than in a while. Likewise, if you’re feeling a bit vulnerable or under the weather, je ne me sens pas au top (I don’t feel great) is a good way to say that.

Ne m’en parle pas – ‘Don’t remind me’. Handy for when somebody asks how you coped with a particular aspect of lockdown. You can also use this phrase if you want to agree with what somebody has said, similar to, “Tell me about it!” For example: ‘ça fait trop longtemps que je n’ai pas fait de sport. / Ne m’en parle pas ! (‘I haven’t exercised in so long. / Tell me about it !).

Qu’est-ce que ça fait du bien – That’s exactly what I needed’. By attaching qu’est-ce que to this simple sentence, you add emphasis and show how great you are feeling. Use it whenever you are doing something you love for the first time in months, whether that’s sitting on the beach and feeling the sun on your face, or taking that first sip of wine on a terrace.

Il était temps – ‘It was about time’. Use this note that something was about time: il était temps. Or as the beginning of a sentence that explains what was about time: il était temps qu’on sorte de ce confinement – It was about time that we got out of this lockdown.

Avec plaisir – Translates as ‘with pleasure’, and is to say that you are keen to do something, as in ‘gladly’. This is a polite phrase and great for work reunions, but you can also use it with your young and hip friends (oh, yes, your friends are young and hip and so are you). Avec grand plaisir means ‘with great pleasure’, and if you want to be extra enthusiastic you can say avec énorme plaisir – ‘with enormous pleasure’.

Partant – Être partant means to be up for something, and is often used when making plans, so it is perfect for navigating the endless possibilities of a post-lockdown world. For example: Je suis partant pour un verre (I’m up for a drink).

Allez ! – ‘Let’s do it’. It directly translates as ‘go’, but is really a way to show enthusiasm. On prend un autre ? / Allez ! (Shall we have another? Let’s do it!).

Cul sec ! – Let’s face it, there will be some drinking in bars in the coming months. This one translates directly as ‘dry bottom’, but it actually means ‘down it!’, as in empty your drink in one go.

READ ALSO: Cool cul – 13 of the best French ‘bottom’ expressions

Police had to chase Parisians away from the Seine river banks back in February when the sun finally came out. Photo: THOMAS COEX / AFP

C’était noir de monde – ‘It was packed’. We’ve all gotten used to deserted streets, so it’s going to be a big shock to see shops, bars and restaurants open again, and international allowed. This phrase conjures up an image of a room or a street where you couldn’t see the ground because there were so many people.

On n’est jamais trop prudent ‘Better safe than sorry’. Use this phrase when you find yourself in a crowd and are asking the person next to you to put their mask back on, while trying to remain polite. Indeed, the French health ministry recommends continuing to wear a mask and following social distancing guidelines even once you have been vaccinated, so we could be saying this for a while yet.

Vivement le vaccin – ‘I can’t wait for the vaccine’. This will be especially useful if certain activities, such as travel, require a vaccination certificate, and you are enviously watching everybody get vaccinated ahead of you.

Enfin ! – Finally! Our final word is twice as useful, because not only will it convey your sense of relief at being done with lockdown, it will also come in handy when the waiter finally brings you your food on your first night back in a packed restaurant.

Member comments

  1. “[T]u t’en es sorti…? should be, in English, “Did you come through the lockdown all right?” “Alright” is never correct in English. Perhaps there is confusion because of “already”, as in “I’ve already thought of that.” However if one wants to ask whether people are primed to do something immediately, one would ask, “Are you all ready?” There is no such word as “alright.” Ouch.

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France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

France's public health body outlined how Covid-19 rules changed starting on February 1st, including an end to compulsory self-isolation after a positive test result.

France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

Starting on February 1st, Covid rules relaxed in France as the country brought an end to compulsory isolation for those who test positive for the virus.

However, those travelling from China to France will still be required to agree to a random screening upon arrival and to isolate in the case of a positive Covid-19 test result. Travellers aged 11 and over coming from China must also provide a negative test result (less tan 48 hours) prior to boarding and those aged six and over must agree to wear a mask on board flights. These regulations – which was set to last until January 31st – is set to remain in place until February 15th.

The French public health body (The Direction générale de la santé or DGS)  announced the change on Saturday in a decree published in the “Journal Officiel” outlining the various ways the body will loosen previous coronavirus restrictions.

READ MORE: What Covid rules and recommendations remain for visiting France?

Those who were in contact with someone who tested positive – ie a contact cases – will also no longer be required to take a test, though the public health body stressed that both testing after contact and isolating after receiving a positive test remain recommended.

Previously, even asymptomatic people who had been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 were required to test on the second day after being notified that they were a “contact-case”.

These changes took effect on February 1st.

READ MORE: What changes in France in February 2023?

The DGS also said that website SI-DEP, which records test results, will remain in operation until June 30th, however starting in February it will only collect personal data with the express permission of the patient.

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Additionally, the French government announced that sick leave procedures for people with Covid-19 would return to normal starting February 1st – this means that those who test positive for Covid-19 now also have the three-day wait period before daily sick benefits are required to be paid, as is usually the case. Previously, people with Covid-19 could expect daily sick benefits to begin at the start of their sick leave period (arrêt maladie in French).  

READ MORE: How sick leave pay in France compares to other countries in Europe

Covid tests are still available on walk-in basis from most pharmacies are are free to people who are fully vaccinated and registered in the French health system. Unvaccinated people, or visitors to France, have to pay up to a maximum of €22 for an antigen test of €49 for a PCR test. 

If you recently tested positive for Covid-19 in France – or you suspect you may have contracted Covid-19 – you can find some information for how to proceed here.

In explaining the changes that began at the start of February, the French public health body also noted a drop in Covid-19 infections in the past month. As of January 30th, approximately 3,800 people in France had tested positive in the previous 24 hours for the coronavirus – which represents a decrease from the averages of 20,000 new cases per day about one month ago.