Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world, full of chic locals living their best lives. Being a tourist in Paris is fun, I am a tourist nearly every single year! It doesn’t mean you want to stick out like a sore (foreign) thumb! Here are a few ways you can combat the tacky tourist moniker North Americans are often labeled with.
Here are easy tips for preventing you from being an annoyance to the French, as well as fellow Americans, while visiting Paris.
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Tip #1: Reduce the volume of your voice by 50%.
We don’t realize how much louder we speak than other cultures. I first experienced this phenomenon while working in Switzerland. I had a girlfriend who worked at the same company as I, who was also American. We would go to lunch together and have a wonderful time.
But we soon realized that you could hear our voices way above anyone else’s. Our normal speaking voice is much louder than other cultures, like the French, which is a little more discreet. So when you are in restaurants or visiting tourist attractions, like churches, think about lowering your voice out of respect for others.
Tip#2 Reduce what you say by 50%.
We like to talk. We get excited and we like to share. But we sometimes forget that we share our space with others. And when we are speaking loudly (see tip#1) we can take over that space without realizing the sheer quantity of what we are saying.
When visiting monuments or museums be conscientious of the people around you and how they get to enjoy the view or the photo or the piece of artwork. Some people like to quietly reflect or stand still to take a photo and can be bothered by a constant stream of dialogue.
Tip#3 You can not “have it your way” when it comes to food.
The Burger King motto does not fly outside of the U.S. Having traveled and eaten in both Asia and Europe, I can tell you, there is no customization when it comes to food. So don’t bring that American mentality to the table in France, or anywhere else. Eat the food on the menu as it is prepared, or don’t order it.
There is no “mayo on the side;” or “I want fries instead of rice” options. Respect how the food is prepared and served. If you have food allergies or other restrictions, try to do some planning ahead of time, although I can tell you are going to have a rough time, especially in France.
Say “bonjour” to the room when you enter a shop, restaurant, or bar, or before you start any conversation. Even if no one acknowledges you, it will be heard and appreciated. French people consider it very rude to start talking to them without greeting them.
So if you enter a store and directly start shopping, and then ask for a size, etc. you will find you will have a much easier time if you enter the store, say “bonjour” (or Bonsoir if it is the evening) and then ask for help.
None of these tips are meant to offend Americans. I could certainly come up with three tips for French people visiting America! It is more of an exercise in being a global citizen. When you are traveling outside of your own country remember to be cognizant of other people’s cultures and social norms, it shows that you are respectful of your surroundings and that you are a conscientious person.
How about you? Do you have any additional tips? Do share!
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