Paris – one of the most romantic cities in the world, full of chic locals living their best lives. Although France ranks as one of the most-visited countries in Europe, you don’t want to stick out like a sore (foreign) thumb! Here are a few ways you can avoid looking like a tourist in Paris.
Everyone knows Parisians define stylish, and the city itself serves as a hub for fashion and creatives alike. Before you go out and buy a whole new wardrobe fit for Paris Fashion Week, take stock of your closet. You probably already have an attire that would blend in on the streets of Paris.
Do: Bring plain t-shirts, well-tailored pants, a nice pair of shoes
Don’t: Bring your baseball caps, Hawaiian shirts, and sports jerseys
No one likes a loud talker, especially in Paris. French people tend to be even quieter than the rest of Europeans. Anglophone voices have a habit of carrying and standing out, so use your inside voice (even outside).
Take some time on the plane to brush up on some basic French. Learning some basic French phrases goes a long way, and shows respect. Speaking of respect, say “bonjour” when you enter a store, “au revoir” when you leave, and “non merci” if someone offers you something that you don’t want.
Do: Speak softly, and make an effort to communicate in French
Don’t: Shout into your cell phone, or expect everyone to speak to you in English.
From Michelin-starred restaurants to cozy neighborhood cafes, it’s hard to beat the dining scene in Paris. For the French, dining elevates to an experience, and one not to be rushed. Don’t gulp your meal, and certainly don’t expect the quick food and service that you may experience in North America. Expect for your meal to take some time, and enjoy the slower pace that allows you to appreciate every sip and morsel.
Avoid looking like a tourist in Paris – do NOT ask for a to-go container (aka a doggy bag). And while a 20% tip feels customary in the United States, France includes the gratuities – listed as “service compris” on your bill, usually about 18%.
Do: Try restaurants off the beaten path, further away from the tourist attractions.
Don’t: Request modifications to your meal at a restaurant, as it’s considered rude (unless for medical or dietary restrictions)
Day to Day Life
Paris is not only a charming and romantic destination but also a major metropolitan city. With that in mind, you need to keep your wits about you and be conscientious of pickpocketers who prey on travelers. Avoid hanging your handbag on the back of your chair in restaurants and cafes, and don’t carry an excessive amount of cash on you. Utilize the safe (if there is one) in your hotel to store valuables, and keep your bag or valuables in front of you when using the metro or visiting crowded tourist attractions.
Forget your checklist of attractions to see, and instead consider flaneur (strolling, or meandering) with no real end game. The best times while traveling are often not visiting attractions or following your itinerary to a ‘T’, rather they’re the genuine, authentic moments in between. It’s the buttery pain-au-chocolat you eat on a park bench, or the fromagerie you discover as you meander down cobbled side streets, or even the pride you feel when you successfully complete a basic exchange in another language. That’s what you’ll remember when your suitcase is unpacked, the souvenirs given out, and the photos are printed. And that’s what you’ll be looking forward to experiencing again.
Do: Soak it all in, people watch, and leave room in your travels for free time.
Don’t: Visit Paris only once.
If you’ve been dreaming of visiting Paris, let’s talk! You can reach me here.
Want to read more about Paris? Check out this blog post Hidden Gem in Paris: Canal Saint Martin.