How to Be a Tourist That Parisians Actually Like
seven Tips on how to EARN RESPECT FROM PARISIANS OR AT LEAST NOT ANNOY THEM
I spoke with over a dozen Parisians about their opinions on tourism, because I wanted to understand if Parisians did in fact hate tourists…and Americans. Their remarks can be culminated into this summary:
Below are a few suggestions that each Parisian said, in one way or another, that encompass the actions of tourists that Parisians actually like, enjoy, or think fondly of:
1. Learn a few French phrases
They speak French in France, did you know that? Of course you did! (I hope you can sense my sarcasm.) Yes, English is the international language. All major cities speak English fluently or gosh-darn close to it. That being said, it is still generally rude and a power-move to assume people in other countries speak English or ’Merican.
And if you are fluent or gosh-darn close to it, in a another language(s), you know it is no small accomplishment, uses complex parts of the brain, and extreme fortitude. Many people around the world spend every single day practicing English; it shows a tip-of-the-hat of respect to another culture if you at least spent fifteen friggin’ minutes trying to memorize a few of their phrases. Many countries have become numb to this language indignity, but the French are just more proud and outspoken (which I can respect).
Instead of walking into a clothing store in Paris and saying in loud English, “Hey! I’m looking for a new hat.”
First say: “Bonjour! Désolé, je ne parle pas français...” (Hi! Sorry, I do not speak French…)
If you demonstrate that you tried to pronounce a few French words, they will reward you with kindness because your action is a gesture of decency. They will step in and immediately respond in English, “I speak English, how can I help you?”
If learning the French language is daunting to you, I suggest checking out my article on the top 15 essential French phrases to learn before your trip.
2. Practice pronunciation
Learning French with proper accent is essential. Parisians aren’t trying to make you feel stupid when you pronounce their language incorrectly, they genuinely cannot understand you.
3. smile and explain: “Pardon! Je ne parle pas Français.”
If you are uncomfortable because you do not understand a situation, memorize the French phrase for: “I do not speak French.” And if you are 100% anti-learning French, I suggest at least learning those five words: Je ne parle pas Français.
4. Be considerate when walking down the street
Just like in NYC, Chicago, or LA, don’t stare at your phone and get in the way of local pedestrians trying to get where they need to go. If you need Google Translate assistance or Google Maps guidance as you are making your way around the city, no problem—just take a 360 view of your surroundings and find a spot up against a building out of everyone’s way to gawk at your cellular device.
5. Don’t be loud
Okay, if there’s ONE thing you take away from this article it should be this one. French are quiet people. If you are on the bus, train, or at a bar…it is not necessary to yell your words. This makes you stick out like a sore-thumb and will annoy the locals.
I used to work with an awesome company in Montreuil, near the 20th arrondissement. Story goes, one day the American rep showed up at a Bistro in Paris before his group of Parisian colleagues. The waitstaff tells him they have a table at the back of the restaurant for him. As he follows the waitstaff to his table, the once quiet restaurant becomes rambunctious with roaring laughter, loud voices, and overall sound chaos. He realized: This is where they sit the Americans, so the locals can enjoy a quiet meal in the front. Hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time. So don’t be a loud silly-billy.
6. Learn escalator etiquette
Stand on the right, walk on the left. (And be careful of large luggage blocking the left lane!) Perhaps the quickest way to know if someone is not French—is by their escalator etiquette. I learned this rule quickly and made sure to apply at airports, train stations, and hotels ASAP. Nothing annoys Parisians more than when they are trying to go to work in the morning or get home in haste and tourists (who don’t speak their language) are blocking their escalators. A big no-no, so get it right and you’re golden!
7. Generally don’t be an asshole
This is a basic social rule to follow anywhere you go ;)
And there ya go! You see? Getting around Paris is not so different from getting around NYC or other busy American cities.