France — and especially Paris — has a love/hate relationship with tourists. Tourism is an important industry, but if you’re not careful, you can make a nuisance of yourself with locals. Here are five ways you can avoid being that tourist:
- Realize you’re not in Kansas anymore. The customs are different. While you’re in France, it’s best to learn to do what the French do, and refrain from doing what they don’t do. People expect tourists to make the occasional cultural faux pas. What they don’t expect is an earful about what’s “wrong” with the way they do things.
- Realize that some French people don’t speak English. Most French speak at least some English, especially in the larger cities, and the vast majority of those who work for hotels in Paris or other tourism-related industries speak English relatively well. However, you are in France, and you can’t expect everyone to speak your language. Many who do speak it, don’t speak it well, and some who speak perfectly good English refuse to do so. After all, vous êtes en France. Pick up a French phrase book (or, hey, it’s 2015, download a French app to your smartphone. You’ll find that French people speak much better English after you’ve at least made an attempt to communicate in French. Most importantly, if someone doesn’t appear to understand you, don’t repeat yourself louder and slower. If they speak English, you’ll offend them. If they don’t, volume won’t help.
- Refrain from asking where to find the nearest McDonald’s, Starbucks and so on. You’re in France! Enjoy the local cuisine. If you absolutely must have Chicken McNuggets, at least don’t announce it. If you have to ask, quietly ask the concierge at your hotel. It really does irritate the French when tourists ask for American chain restaurants.
- Follow the protocol on the Metro. This one’s pretty simple. You let everyone exiting the train get out before you go in. When you’re in, if the train is crowded, stand up. Only sit if there’s a clear place to do so.
- Don’t tip. Seriously. It’s not part of the French culture. Many of the people we typically tip in America, such as wait staff, are paid considerably better in France, and your attempt to tip can be interpreted as an insult.
Remember, to the French, France isn’t a tourist destination, it’s home. You’re the guest and the one who has to adapt, not them. Try to fit in, and you’re sure to have a great time.