So you’re going to Paris. Or you’re thinking about going to Paris. Either way, I’d love to share some of the things I have picked up in my time here. I love the idea of other cultures– studying them has always been one of my favorite pastimes. But now, I’m experiencing Paris, France firsthand for the first time! Traveling smart and kind is always the way to go, so if I can help to mentally prepare another student who is taking a Millennium Tour like me, I will gladly share some of my experience! Here’s my top 5 list of Parisian etiquette rules as you bustle about the city:
- When you ride the metro (as you are bound to do!), move toward the center of the car you’re in. If it’s already full, walk straight into the back. And if that’s already full, opt to stand instead of sitting in the foldable chairs to conserve space. This allows for a better flow of movement and for those busy Parisians to be able to dart in and out of the car when on urgent business!
- As there are a plethora of cafés on every street, be observant. Look to see if people are seating themselves or just walking straight in– each place will manage differently so read the room. And bonus tip: if you want to avoid paying for water, order une carafe d’eau and they will bring out a glass filled with tap water (yes, it’s fine to drink, and yes, if you just order water, they’ll likely bring out an evian or the like).
- While we’re on the subject of cafés and restaurants, keep in mind that servers are virtually never trying to come across as rude or standoffish. If you seem to be having trouble, it is likely because one of you doesn’t understand the other (or both) or because they simply have lots on their plate (literally!). Many people assume a stereotype that the French are snobbish but most actually help your French or at least are patient with it. Try your best to communicate and meet them where they’re at with regard to language. Remember to always have patience with them as they are patient with you!
- Another thing I’ve noticed pertains to noise level. I think in general Americans tend to be louder in public than Parisians. Obviously, there are always exceptions, but it is good to be aware of just how much noise you are making. I don’t know about you, but where I come from, we get quite loud when we’re excited… and there are just so many exciting things to do and see in Paris! As the French are particular about respecting space and time, lots of noise can be perceived as taking up lots of space. Be aware and be respectful, especially in cafés and on the metro (where business people and parents alike have had long days).
- Last but certainly not least! Like I said before, it can translate as rude in Parisian culture to take up extra space, even if done obliviously. I know you, dear Millennium Tours student, would never intentionally waste someone’s time but try to move with purpose. For one thing, it can help you move more confidently and look like a true Parisian! Two, Paris is a big city and people often have to rush to get where they need to be. Don’t slow down the movement on the stairs, escalators, or hallways– stay to the right so people can pass you if need be!
A lot of people will keep to themselves but occasionally people will strike up conversations with you. The key in all of these situations is to try your best, be aware, and be sensitive to other people. This is an entirely different country with a different way of life, but at the end of the day, we are all just people. Smile, be polite, and have fun! I hope these tips can help you navigate the city with confidence. Bonne visite à Paris!