Paris Culture and other expectations...

May 11th, 2008, 01:21 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 17
Paris Culture and other expectations...

I am leaving for Paris in about a week and a half. I have never been to Paris, let alone Europe. I am going with three other ladies whom of which have never been either.

As far as expectations go and cultural habits, what are some things we should do ourselves to fit in a little better?

Are there any random things that would be good to know to help us adjust a little better?

Is there anything (essentials) in particular we should bring they might not have there?

Is there anything we should do before we leave to prepare for our visit?

Thank for your experienced input!
holm0594 is offline  
May 11th, 2008, 01:35 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 66,074
My main recommendation is just to relax and enjoy yourselves. Everyone will know you are tourists so don't do anything extreme to "fit in"

Two things that are important to know . . .

In shops, don't just walk in and start touching the merchandise. Be sure to greet the shopkeeper and let him/her show you things. Even in small corner mini-mart type places w/ fruit and such. Tell them what you want and they will bag it for you.

And in restaurants - when you want the bill, ask for it. Waiters will not bring the check just because you seem to have finished your meal.

Have a wonderful trip.
janisj is offline  
May 11th, 2008, 01:40 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 793
Learn as many common expressions in French as you can and always start conversations with them.

Say "bonjour madame / monsieur" when you enter any store. Stores are private not public places.

If none of you speak French you may want to stay in the Tourist areas, single digit arrondissements.
Danna is offline  
May 11th, 2008, 01:54 PM
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 429
Bonjour Madam, Bonjour Monsiur can go a long way so remember to say that along with merci and s'il vous plait.

Enjoy the food. The bread, coffee and cheese are to die for.
travelme is offline  
May 11th, 2008, 02:08 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,485
Hi H,

>...other ladies whom of which have never been either.


Good advice above.

It would be helpful if you learn the French for

Hello, goodbye
Please, Thank you
Yes, No
Where is the toilet?
What is the price?

It is necessary to greet people before you conduct any business.

A bottle of cola costs about as much as a the same amount of wine in a restaurant.

I bring a small pad and pen for people to write words and numbers.

A "carnet" of 10 tickets for the metro and buses is only 11.5E.

Don't be too concerned about fitting in.

Paris is full of people, from all over the world, who are on their first visit.

Enjoy your visit.

ira is offline  
May 11th, 2008, 02:10 PM
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 674
There are acutally quite a few cultural differences that if misinterpetted can cause problems.
First, the French aremore formal then us, so what may appear cold is actually just because the french do not " gush" it is not done as a rule. Your waiter is not going to try and be your best friend, he is a waiter , which means he will take your order and bring your food, period , he will rarely check back to ask you how the food is, he assumes it is fine. He will likely not bring bill till asked, they have no reason to rush you out, remember tipping is not really part of the culture, so rushing through tables does not benefit the waiter really. ( to tip round up bill a euro or two is all that is needed, unless you have a fancy dinner, then 5-10 % extra MAX.)
ALWAYS use and greet people as Monsieur or Madame, to enter a store and not do so is considered really rude, especially if you then demand something,( like " do you have this in red? ") if you haven't said hello ( bonjour) FIRST they feel you are ordering them about, so you may get help but it will be cold.
I find the french fun, usaully very nice and polite to me, but, I try to be nice and polite to them also.
Keep your voices down, loud talking and laughing is seen as a bit vulgar.
If you encounter a grump, remember they may have had a fight with their hubby or wife that morning and it is most likely not personal, metro ticket kiosk workers have a bit of a rep for being grumps, but lets face it, there jobs suck, and they likely get burnout from answering the same questions day in and day out.

Cars have the right of way, not you, be careful.
Bring kleenex in purse for TP.
McDonalds always have bathrooms.

Stop lots for coffees or wine.

Don't ask to have food altered, it isn't really done ie: " can I have the fish done with a dill sauce instead of the beurre blanc and instead of fries can I have rice" for example. While some places may allow one change, coming across like you can custom order food is not well recieved.

Relax,, roll with bumps.Enjoy lots of wine, cheese , creme brulees, and apple tatins.. LOL
bozama is offline  
May 11th, 2008, 02:11 PM
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 429
Excellent advice from Bozama.
travelme is offline  
May 11th, 2008, 03:34 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 10,605
in other words, try to see how they do it, rather than trying to do things the way you do it.
Travelnut is offline  
May 11th, 2008, 06:30 PM
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 225
All good advice above, except I disagree with Danna's suggestion you might want to stick strictly to the single digit arrondissements.

I speak minimal French, stayed several weeks in one of the outer arrondissements while in Paris and had absolutely no problems. In fact, I found prices more reasonable and a more authentic experience was had in restaurants, cafes, shops, etc. overall in these outer lying areas because it's not so tourist-focused. Do you really want to go to a restaurant and have an overpriced mediocre meal just because they can hand you a menu in English? It's a refreshing change of pace to be able to walk through a neighborhood and not see so many other tourists clutching their copy of the latest Paris guidebook.

If you follow the advice of the other posters and learn just a few pleasantries in French and start off with them, you will find about 98% of the time the Parisians will switch over to English almost immediately. No need to restrict yourself to certain sections of the city.
Ceidleh is offline  
May 11th, 2008, 06:39 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,153
A suggestion about restaurant menus- there are a few small books which have translations of menu items that might be helpful to you. I have the Bon Appetit: French English Menu Dictionary which is small enough to fit into my back pack. I am a fairly adventurous eater but there are some things I don't like so I just learn the words for those items. Then I take a chance with the rest.
Have a great time and come back and tell us all about it!
AGM_Cape_Cod is offline  
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