5 Things Americans visiting Paris need to know
There is a problem every American visiting Paris will face when they arrive in the City of Light. Besides it being a foreign city with a different language, food scene, and an endless string of historical and artistic sights, there is also an unspoken code of conduct that is hard to navigate. Although we were only visiting Paris for five days (tragic as this is not enough time to be in Paris. Ever!), we did glean a few valuable norms of social etiquette during our stay. We also found a few surprises, both good (the metro) and bad (the coffee) that we never expected, but are glad we can pass on to you.
- Café culture is a way of life, not a quick caffeine fix. The coffee is not always good, but the conversation is stimulating and unforgettable. You don’t simply grab a coffee to go, although they do have Starbucks. You linger and savor the conversation and friendships.
- Greet everyone. If you only learn one French word learn “Bonjour.” Every time you go into any shop say bonjour. It is polite to greet people when you enter their shop or need help no matter where you travel in the world, but especially so in Paris. Don’t be rude. Greet everyone.
- Thank you goes a long way. I went to Paris with about 10 words of French language in my repertoire. Although I wish I had known more, simply saying “merci” took me a very long way. I would greet with Bonjour (no matter the time of day this was my fall back just to be polite) and I would leave every shop with “Merci, au revoir!”
- The Dijon mustard is spicy. Order yourself a steak and a little carafe of Dijon mustard will come out with it most times. This is not mild American Dijon mustard. It is spicy, almost like a horseradish sauce and can really clear your sinuses. This is one of the spiciest things you will be presented in France. It is delicious and something every U.S. grocery store should be carrying. Sadly they do not.
- Paris metro is one of the most beautiful forms of transportation you can find. If you have ridden any subway in the world, you can figure out Paris, especially if you have conquered NYC’s system, or even the DC metro. If you are not a frequent user of a metro, have no fear. All of the subway lines in the city are numbered and they have colors too. Refer to the numbers though as some of the colors start to look the same. Read more about riding the Paris metro.
The one thing all Americans visiting Paris need to remember most of all is that Parisians are not snobby. They are a very proud people. Keep that in mind and your attitude will shift and you will understand the city a whole lot better.