Meaning of "garçon" in French
"garçon" almost always means "boy".
In very rare cases, it also means "waiter":
- Ex: "I am calling the waiter in the restaurant" means "J'appelle le garçon dans le restaurant".
Note that here the context is about restaurant trade. Besides, we usually use the word "serveur" or the phrase "garçon de café" instead of "garçon" (which would rather be used as an interjection, ex: "Garçon !").
That is why "waiter" is NOT accepted as a translation for "garçon" on Duolingo.
Am I right in thinking it's actually quite rude to refer to your waiter as "Garçon!", especially if he is older than you...? I was under the impression that "Monsieur" was far more commonly used (My parents asked me, when I was in Tunisia, why I wasn't saying garçon to which I simply replied "They're older than me and it feels kinda awkward/rude calling them 'boy' like some kind of servant" haha) as it shows more respect.
It really is an insult to call a waiter "boy". My French friends really frown on it. I am sorry to say though the great Pimseleur does use it once in their very first tape, that was wrong! Especially to be an American in France....they can be so rude, without realizing it. The French are over polite and it is expected to say Bonjour when entering a shop.
NO, not overly polite individually- that's subjective- but in the expected exchanges between individuals that occur everyday. For example, as Wrenbob said, one is expected to say bonjour upon entering a shop- even while frowning- or it is considered rude. Likewise, one is expected to say thank you "merci" to the cashier and to wish them well upon leaving "bon journe (accent above the e)". It's not that the French, or Parisians for that matter, are overly polite, but their cultural norms demand an attention to politesse which shows a deference to mutual respect and dignity; part of a diplomatic code of conduct. I quite like it, and wish that more Americans adopted this standard.
Derrek82, we had a cultural blip there. I was "smiling" because in my culture the French are not overly polite; they are normal. And I was smiling because it is not only in France the Americans are considered rude. In Australia it is normal to say "Hi" to the shop assist, and to not say "thank you" to the cashier is rude and ignorant.
It's not rude. Yes, it's expected to say "bonjour", but more and more people forget it.
I'm surprised you say "it's expected to say "bonjour", I though it was everywhere in the world, and something natural. When a shopkeeper don't say "bonjour" to me, I'm shocked and even angry, if I was a shopkeeper, it would be the same for clients.