All self-respecting Paris travel tips will include the fact that the French people are very proud of their heritage. They have a right to be considering that many of the great things in modern civilization owe their existence to the French, from wines to women to wicked whims. As such, when in Paris, behave like the Parisians do.
It’s always a good idea to learn French phrases before setting foot on Paris even if it’s a crash course learned on the airplane via an audio book. You can start with common polite phrases like Parlez-vous anglais? (Do you speak English?), Merci (Thank you), Pardon (pardon me), and Excusez-moi (Excuse me).
And don’t worry if you butcher the French language with your forced pronunciation since Parisians will understand. Just start conversations in French, politely at that, and most Parisians will switch to English once you have their favorable attention. You might even get great Paris travel tips from Parisians themselves when you speak French!
French society retains vestiges of its courtly history. Parisians are formal and polite, which is almost to a fault by American standards. As such, you will always hear polite greetings like “Bonjour madame” or a “Bonsoir monsieur” at every start of conversations especially among strangers and acquaintances. And it helps to get the attention of a Parisian by saying “Excusez-moi de vous deranger” (”Excuse me for bothering you”).
Such politeness even extends to shops and stores because you have to greet the sales staff, too. The payoff, however, is good because when you treat the sales staff with politeness, you will be treated to respectful service.
Even a simple “Veuillez m’aider” (Please help me) will get you more practical Paris travel tips. Also, always express your appreciation for a service provided to you even when it is something as simple as pointing you in the right direction. If you have to, lay on the butter by profusely complimenting a Parisian!
It’s not because Parisians are non-confrontational people, far from it. Remember that Paris was the center of the French Revolution! It’s just that, for most Parisians, arguments are an art form that only the most experienced of debaters must undertake and only in very special circumstances.
Instead, talk calmly and let your wishes be known in a clear and concise way. You might be shuttled from one desk to the next but be patient because you will have your wish sooner or later. Or if you feel that patience will not solve the problem, then just take your business elsewhere.
This is one of the most important Paris travel tips especially when you are staying with a Parisian family. (They apparently don’t believe about the Greeks bearing gifts) And even when you are only invited for a simple lunch or dinner, you are expected to bring a gift. It can be wine, food and flowers just as long as you have one. However, in Paris, chrysanthemums are not appropriate gifts to bring to a social event unless it is a wake.
So, the next time someone tells you that the Parisians are rude, ask them whether they have been polite to the Parisians. After all, in Paris, politeness breeds politeness!