I’m still in Paris 🙂 Paris is the most visited city in the world which means tourists are everywhere. Sometimes we see them, sometimes we don’t. And in my opinion, it’s definitely better to be the invisible tourist. Since I’ve been here for a good amount of time so far, I’ve decided to compile a list of how to do so.
How to be an invisible tourist in Paris
- Dress like the locals: We know you love your baseball caps… but leave it at home this time. In the fashion capital of the world, you might expect a lot of individuality, but it’s actually a city of conformity in advanced fashion. So, if you wear something out of the ordinary, you’re going to get some stares. Stay close to neutral colors, black, grey, beige, navy, (olive green if you’re feeling adventurous), but try not to stray far. As an advocate of fashion, I always encourage standing out in a crowd, but only if you can afford to do so. As a tourist, it might not be the best option to create a target out of yourself.
- Eat like the locals: I know French cuisine will have you drooling, but contrary to popular Parisians aren’t eating at five star restaurants every day. It’s nice to visit a restaurant or two while in town to experience France’s prideful gastronomy, but maybe take a step back and eat like a local. Many neighborhoods have markets a few days out of the week. These are like a combination between a farmers market and street food. Get your weekly fruits and veggies, but also stop by for an authentic meal prepared on the spot that tastes just as good, if not better, than you’re 75 euro restaurant meal. This is a great way to eat good food on a budget. Something that’s also quite popular with Parisians are picnics. With parks almost everywhere, you will see people lounging in the grass with their home brought meals very often. Take a break, enjoy the scenery, bring along a baguette and some lunch meat, and you’re golden.
- Understand dining etiquette: If you do choose to take part in the luxury of eating out, make sure you are familiar with French dining etiquette. Keep your hands on the table! Always. It can be difficult to remember, but make sure you don’t rest your hands on your lap. If your hands aren’t seen, it can be considered rude. It is very uncommon in France to order only one course for your meal. You should typically compliment your entree with at least an appetizer or a dessert. The french appreciate their food; appreciate it with them. Also make sure everybody at your table has been served their meal and/or their drink before you dig in yourself. Once everything is in place, start off with a “Bon Appetite!” before the first bite.
- Ride the metro: Paris has amazing public transportation. There is absolutely no need to take a taxi anywhere when the metro system will get you where you need to be. The metros run every 2-6 minutes, which means you’ll never have to wait long. Sometimes the metro ends up getting you to your destination faster than a car would because of all the unnecessary traffic in the city. The metro is also a great way to people watch and observe Parisians in their natural habitat. Obtaining a metro pass isn’t that expensive, and might be worth your while.
- Stay quiet: When in public places such as the metro or trains, don’t speak loudly, Americans tend to fall under their stereotype of being loud compared to other cultures. Don’t let this be true. Save your phone calls for after you get out of the metro, and try to speak quietly if you’re having a conversation with someone. If not, you’re likely to get glares in your direction since this is one of Parisians’ biggest pet peeves.
- Walk instead: Paris is a very walkable city. You can literally get anywhere by foot. It’s sometimes more enjoyable to travel the city by walking rather than the taking the metro if your destination is less than twenty minutes away. This allows you to see different parts of the city during your walk compared to the black, underground tunnels provided by the metro windows. If you’re lost, or don’t have a metro ticket, walk. You’ll always get to where you need to be, and it’s most definitely a cheaper option.
- Walk with a purpose: When walking in the street, don’t take your time. Although it is very much like French nature to take their time with everything, walking is not one of them. The French tend to be a pretty stressed group of people most of the time (probably from waiting until the last minute to do everything), so they power walk everywhere. So my advice is that although Paris is beautiful and you want to take it all in, pretend like you know where you’re going at all times and walk with a decent pace as to not make enemies with those behind you.
- Don’t smile at strangers: While you’re on the street, don’t smile at strangers. While this is a common American practice, it is surely not in France. In France, smiling means that you’re showing interest in someone. If someone smiles at you in France, don’t smile back, because your intentions are most likely not on the same page. This may be why the French, especially Parisians, are thought to be unfriendly and hostile, but in reality, it is just a lack of smiling. I promise, they are nice people!
- Don’t use a map: When traveling, don’t use a map. Maps are tempting in Paris, especially when tourism offices happily give you ten just in case you lose the first nine. Maps quickly draw attention to you, and people automatically know you’re not from the city. Although this isn’t a bad thing, this can make you a victim of small crimes such as pickpocketing. Instead, invest in a phone plan! Plans in Europe are tremendously cheap compared to plans in America. Get enough data to last you a few weeks for five to ten euros and use travel apps on your phone to make sure you’re going the right way. Definitely a better, safer way to move, and you’re making strides in saving the environment.
- Stand on the right side of the escalator: Just do it! It’s a simple task. This is more for any big cities, not only Paris, but if you don’t want annoyed Parisians who are late to work, pushing you out of the way, I would suggest to remember this tip. Pedestrian traffic in metros and malls can get a bit congested and escalators are sometimes part of the reason. That’s why the system of escalator “sides” have been created. It works, so don’t let it be the reason that you start off on a bad foot with others.
- Learn a little language, just the basics: French is an intimidating language, especially to Americans since the sounds are so, so weird. I’m not telling you to become fluent, but simply to learn a few helpful phrases and vocabulary such as hello, thank you, where is the bathroom, etc. Using a little bit of French goes a long way with the people here. They appreciate every attempt to learn their language, and will immediately try their best to help you if you are in need of anything. Learning the language is part of learning the culture behind it, and when traveling, it’s great to make an effort to learn about the places you are visiting. Language is just a small step.
Taadaaa! These are my 11 tips of how to be a French person’s favorite tourist. The people here do not hate tourists, they just simply want their culture to be respected as well. Enjoy you’re stay in Paris and maybe keep some of these tips in mind.