Lately, I’ve read a paper in a blog about cultural differences which made me think about writing these recommendations. The story was all about an English man and his wife visiting Paris for the first time. Here what he wrote : « After the first day I wanted to strangle Paris, after a week I wanted to kiss her and visit again. What a fantastic city, once you get used to it! Parisians do appear rude (particularly the waiters) but once you dig beneath the surface they are good people who get swept along by the pace of big city life. We have learned a lot from our visit and will be better prepared for our return”…
Well, I think this man is perfectly right and cultural differences are really huge between foreign visitors and Parisians… I am not telling that tourists are all wrong and locals are always right. Parisians have a reputation for being impossibly rude, impatient and condescending towards anyone other than their own (even towards people coming from other French cities).
I just want to help you to have the nicest stay in the French capital. Some of these advices might be obvious for some of you. Well, I used to see a lot of foreign visitors in Paris doing wrong things, I prefer to say things as I think it has to be said. Like we say: » if it goes without saying, then it will go even better if we say it » !
1/Always use few magic words
« Bonjour » (Hello), »S’il vous plaît » (Please), »Merci » (Thank you), »Pardon » (Sorry)… French people are usually rather formal and polite. If you need to ask something, you’ll get a better answer if you always begin your question with a little « Bonjour ». Then add a « S’il vous plaît » in the sentence. At the end, if you’ve got what you wanted, never forget the « Merci » gratification.
« Pardon » will be very useful each time you’ll bump into someone in the subway or anywhere else. That will mean that you’re not rude and you care about the people around.
2/ Don’t feel upset or offended by the rudeness or the neglect of most Parisian café waiters and taxi drivers
Unlike what I’ve just written about ordinary politeness in France, those two categories of people in Paris have decided to act in a different way! It may relieve you that they are not rude just with foreigners! They have a very poor reputation in the whole country and even French people who live in other cities are rather surprised when they visit Paris
3/You don’t have to tip.
In Paris, and more generally in France, 15% for service is already added to the bill. You can leave a tip on very few occasions. Only if the service was exceptional or the waiter very nice but as I just mentioned, unfortunately, it’s not so frequent!
4/If you ask someone a question, ask first if he does speak English
Some French people doesn’t like that you may consider as an obvious fact that they do speak English. In fact, a lot of people doesn’t or just very few words. Besides, they generally love their native language and are proud of their « cultural exception ». Of course, they will be happy to answer you in English if they are able to but they really will appreciate, if you ask first.
5/Don’t be too noisy, don’t speak too loud in public spaces
Parisian are well known to be rather reserved or grouchy. They are not used to be very warm (even if they stay polite) or to be demonstrative in public. They never shout or express loudly their emotions in a movie theater by instance. It’s also considered as a sign of good education: when you’re in public, you’re not supposed to be annoying for the others…
6/Do not act as if you’re totally lost in the Subway
Even if actually you are! First, it would be better to prepare your trip with a map. It will avoid you to be noticed by some evil minded people who hangover in the subway to rob people. To get easily your way, you just have to remember the number of your line and the terminus station of it. It’s always the number and the terminus that will be mentioned on the direction signs.
7/Get dressed in an urban style
Even if you’re not going to the Fashion Week. Even, if walking with your old running shoes is much more comfortable than any other shoes… you must never forget that you are in the Fashion Capital! Visiting a city might be tiring but it’s not a sport :)You don’t need to get dressed in trainers, hoodies shorts or sweat pants… So, let your running shoes at home and take some nice ballerina pumps, trendy sneakers or a pair of loafers. No packing bags or sports bags neither! Any doubt? Read here what to pack for Paris
8/Take advantage of your stay in Paris to discover new dishes tips
Let surprise yourself with unusual meals ! No hamburgers, hot-dogs or pizzas for a while… They are so many French dishes to discover : why not trying a « boeuf bourguignon » or an « entrecote marchand de vin » (it’s beef in both cases)… Even if you want a simple meal, you can try a classic Paris-Beurre (sandwich with ham and butter), a Salade Nicoise (rice salad with eggs, olives, tomatoes and tuna) or a Croque-Monsieur (toast with ham and cheese ; with an egg on it, it becomes a « Croque-Madame »!).
9/If you need to go to the bathrooms
Well, it’s embarrassing sometimes to ask where it is and if you say « where is la salle de bains? », which is the literal translation of bathrooms that will make people laugh… Don’t ask me why you’ll have instead to ask for « les toilettes »!
10/ Don’t try to see everything and don’t stand in line for hours to get your Eiffel Tower tickets
Either sign up for a tour or buy your tickets online. That line will waste your time and your pleasure to be there. By the way, if you’re looking for a nice Paris sight, you should try the 56th floor of the Montparnasse Tower. It’s less crowded and it really worth it ! (from there you will have a very nice view of the Eiffel Tower !).
And by the way, the list of must-sees in Paris is very long, and when you start to plan out each day you wonder how you’re even going to have the time to sleep! But, look – Paris will be still there when you’ll come back one day!
Don’t waste too much time on visiting museums or monuments that you’re not that much interested about…
It’s more important that you enjoy your experience. Half of the magic of Paris is just walking around, with no destination!
If you’re constantly running from one site to another, you’re missing a significant part of the French living style. Never forget that you’re on vacation! Sleep in, have a long lunch, stroll around, take it slow ;)
PS/ If you plan to do some shopping be aware of the clothing sizes. They may be totally different to those you are used to
And last, but not least, have fun!!