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How Not to be the Annoying American Tourist in Paris

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How Not to be the Annoying American Tourist in Paris

Back when I did my trip report about my last trip to Paris I mentioned that I was going to follow up with a post about a group of Americans from New York who had impeded our Notre Dame excursion.

Instead of picking on that particular group because that’s not really nice,  I am going to offer 3 easy tips that will prevent you from being labeled as annoying by the French, as well as fellow Americans, while visiting Paris.

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, where they are 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 by 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;” “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.

Bonus tip:

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 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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How Not to be the Annoying American Tourist in Paris

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Andrew S. Conn

Tuesday 14th of October 2014

Pity I just now found your website Andi. Great stuff and greater advice. I am a first generation American; my father was a Russian and my mother a Hungarian. I've spent considerable time in France both in Paris and in the Loire Valley and loved every minute. Your advice is quite good. While I spent little time standing in the middle of any sidewalks looking at maps and I did not ride the Metro even once (we walked every inch of Paris I think), I understand the frustration of rude "invaders" from other countries. But let's be a little circumspect about tourists: Where ever there are tourists there are good and gracious ones as well as boors and bumpkins. I've met nice tourists all over the world, including French ones, and even, dare I say it, American ones. I've also met some downright horrible tourists in some pretty weird locales but as God is my witness, I remind myself, who am I to judge. And by that same token, who the hell does Thomas think he is? If he's so sick of American tourists and America's "crappy" tourists spots, we'll arrange to ban him from entry, and buy him a one-way air ticket to Pyongyang to meet Kim Jong-Un for a well deserved vacation in North Korea. Maybe he'll like that a bit more ...

Andi Fisher

Thursday 16th of October 2014

@Andrew, you bring up valid points! Thanks so much for providing your perspective.

Roger

Monday 25th of April 2011

I do find American tourists loud and sometimes inconsiderate, but on balance I also find some Germans and especially the Dutch to be extremely loud, boisterous and oafish. In fact I think it is just the package holiday riff-raff of any culture who display this behaviour. Loud, noisy, red-faced fat people who go anywhere to get beer, go to nightclubs and pointlessly do the same things they do at home, but in a foreign country.

Andi

Monday 25th of April 2011

@Roger, yep holiday or school break season is the worst of the worst!

anita

Wednesday 16th of February 2011

im from holland and i find american tourists in paris very annoying haha

and to add one tip, don't call everything cheap, leave that for your own country because it is really insulting

Andi

Wednesday 16th of February 2011

@Anita, thanks for your feedback!

The Fashionable Traveler

Sunday 21st of November 2010

The "Bonjour Tip" really hits home. My European friends always, bring this up. I've tried to consciously do, this not only when traveling, but in my everyday life. It's funny how it catches so many of us off-guard, when asked? How are you before asking a question.

Andi

Sunday 21st of November 2010

@Catherine, it really turns any conversation around.

thomas

Friday 28th of May 2010

Tip 1# should be stay at home, visit your own crappy tourism spots. Seriously the world would be a better place if Americans didnt leave their border.

Tip#2 if you must come, dont talk at all. We dont want to give you directions, we dont want to get to know you, we dont want to serve you, we dont care about you, in fact the only reason you are not assualted in the streets upon identification is because of your money.

Tip#3 Be invisible. Dont take up space on the tube during rush hour, dont stand in the middle of the sidewalk and check your map. Basically dont let the local population know there are even any tourists there.

Andi

Friday 4th of June 2010

@Thomas, unfortunately you seem to be one of those stereotypical Parisian that give Parisian's a bad name...luckily, you are not the majority of Parisian's. I do respect your opinion, and I do know that at times Americans tend to be louder and oblivious to their surrounds which is why I wrote this post to raise awareness.