Sometimes writer, always explorer. You'll often find me drinking wine, dressing up, in a foreign country, eating American food or sitting in a dive bar. Sometimes all five at once.
Parisians often carry the reputation of being rude and arrogant — especially to travellers in their city. But this stereotype is dated and, in fact, over the last several years the City of Love has become much more customer service oriented. If there are any rude ones, trust us they’re most likely not only rude to foreigners, but to their fellow Parisians and tourists alike.
But still, every city has unwritten rules, and Paris is no exception. Breaking (or ignoring) those rules can lead to locals treating you like, well, a ridiculous tourist. Here are a few cultural tips to make your trip to Paris a delight.
Start by speaking French. Always.
It’s an oldie but a goodie. When you first start speaking to a Parisian, say a few words in French. Never start by speaking English, as it is seen as quite rude and you don’t want to get clipped over the head with a baguette. Even though most French residents have had a few years of English lessons at school and can hold a beginner’s conversation, many are too worried about making mistakes, and therefore will avoid engaging in English. That’s why speaking a few words of French first will help to break the ice. Plus, it’ll be seen as a token of respect.
Always say hello/goodbye when entering/exiting a store
The earliest shops in Paris were often extensions of people’s houses. And, as you would never ignore a person upon entering their home, a quick ‘bonjour’ and ‘au revoir’ will go a long way with vendors in Paris. And heck, who doesn’t love the sound of those words? The casual way of saying both hello and goodbye is ‘salut.’ And if you wanna say ‘see ya later,’ it’s ‘a plus’ (pronounced ‘ah-ploo’).
Paris is small, so get out of the way
Paris is compact and crowded, and people are often in a hurry. So you should pay attention to how the locals behave as they go about their day — so you won’t get in the way. Some easy tips: stand to the right on escalators and walk up the left; let people disembark the metro before boarding; and don’t stand in the entrance of the metro. Oh, and peeps, don’t stop in the middle of the tiny sidewalk to whip out your selfie-stick and take a picture as it may just end up where the soleil don’t shine.
Be patient with restaurant staff
The restaurant service in France is far different to that of say the USA, Canada or Australia. In Paris, eating and drinking is seen as one of life’s great pleasures, a moment to savour. And so, as a result, wait-staff won’t rush to serve you or clear your table. So don’t be annoyed if you don’t receive the menu straight away. And if you want the bill, you will need to ask for it: ‘L’addition, s’il vous plaît!’ (or ‘La note s’il vous plait!’).
Parisians smoke. A lot. Even non-smokers will light up a cigarette to go with their coffee or glass of wine when sitting on a café patio. So, if you are a non-smoker and dream of a delicious Parisian meal outdoors, be warned that there might be a lot of smoke around you. Don’t even think about asking them to stop as that would be seen as incredibly ignorant. If you can’t handle the smoke, go indoors — it’s illegal to light up inside public spaces.
Respect the art
The Mona Lisa is now hidden away behind bullet-proof glass as, in the past, not only have people taken too many pictures of her but various vandals have sprayed her with red paint, thrown a ceramic teacup at her, and stolen her. That ain’t cool.
Don’t be afraid to start a conversation
Despite the stereotypes you’ve heard, locals in Paris really do enjoy chatting with strangers. And at Urban Adventures we know that #localsknow, so next time you’re sitting, sipping your latte and munching on your pain-au-chocolat, try striking up a conversation with the closet Parisian. You never know what cool secrets you may find out about their city.
From the back streets to the bakeries, there is something to delight the senses around every corner in Paris. Jump on a Paris tour with Urban Adventures to discover the most visited city in the world from a different angle. Once you see the city from a local eye, you’ll leave Paris with lifelong memories (and, more importantly, memories that are different from the other 27 million people who visit Paris each year!).