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How not to be a tourist in Paris

19th October 2012

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Even if you’ve never been to Paris, the stereotypical image of a grumpy waiter in a starched white apron and black bow tie will no doubt come to mind. Parisians have a reputation for being impossibly rude, impatient and condescending towards anyone other than their own. This may be frustrating for tourists, but learn how to fit in and you could find yourself strolling round the city as smug as the locals with an air of disdain for all the anorak-donning sightseers in no time. 

1. First things first, banish any form of sportswear from your suitcase. The trackies we may find acceptable to throw on when popping to the corner shop will only be met with deliberately condescending looks. Parisian are always impeccably dressed and make no effort to hide their disapproval of your lack of effort in the fashion capital of the world. Sure, we can’t all afford Chanel, but leave the trainers, leggings and hoodies at home.  

2. Always, always walk. Segways are becoming popular in Paris, particularly among, yes, you guessed it, the Americans. They may be fun, but nothing screams annoying, lazy tourist than these two-wheeled contraptions.

3. Remember your manners. The French may seem abrupt, but they’re a stickler for politeness. ‘Bonjour Madame’ or ‘Monsieur’ when you enter a shop or restaurant will get you immediate service and you won’t be left at your table confused as to why the waiters are staring right through you.

4. Never tip! In Paris, if you leave a tip you will be taken as a plouc – a mug, as 15% for service is always added to the bill.

5. Be sure to take your drinks the Parisian way. Drink your coffee at the counter like most locals; this will also save you some Euros as you avoid service charges. Ask for a café crème if you like a dash of milk, or you’ll get a shot of espresso strong enough to keep you bouncing off the walls for the rest of the day. Never ask for water as you’ll be paying top dollar for bottles of mineral water. Instead, ask for une carafe and you’ll get tap water, just how the Parisians like it.

6. A trip to France is not complete without tasting Absinthe. But this liqueur has to be drunk the French way, no arguments. We may knock back shots at break-neck speed and with little regard for what we’re gulping, but the French take their drink very seriously. Go to La Feé Verte where this green elixir is served with water poured over a sugar cube.

7. Never, never wear a beret in public. Does more need to be said?

Paris is a city full of beauty and surprises, and the people are among the friendliest, you just need to know how to crack them. As long as you don’t make a tourist of yourself and remember your Ps and Qs, you’ll avoid those indifferent shrugs and depreciating frowns. 

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