Paris’ enchanting reputation has wooed almost 12 million people into living in its Metropolitan Area. It’s easy to see why: the city is known for its history, fashion, cuisine, art, culture, shopping and entertainment, proving to be one of Europe’s most influential cities no matter what art, business or passion you wish to fulfill.
Parisians, on the other hand, are difficult to label. Some portray them as the most romantic bon-vivants in the world, while others prefer to call them arrogant or even rude. The truth, as always, lies right in the middle and it’s not that hard to understand exactly where they’re coming from.
Imagine living in a city full of tourists. Imagine having to go to work every day and bumping into hundreds or even thousands of tourists along the way. Imagine them constantly stopping you and asking you for directions, demanding that you know their own language. And then, imagine them blocking train seats or escalators with their never-ending luggage.
A smile and a few words in French can go a long way in busy, cosmopolitan Paris. Even though English is taught in most schools – and is even fluently spoken in some of Paris’ most-visited attractions – Frenchmen have to make an effort to recall and speak the language correctly. If you make the effort to at least address them in French (making sure you smile a lot), they’ll probably return the favor.
Parisians are also very fond of etiquette and frown upon rudeness or loudness. Make sure you learn the following expressions and use them any time you need help (at shops, cafés, and restaurants or even when asking for directions): “Bonjour” (‘Good day’), “S’il vous plait” (‘Please’) and “Merci” (‘Thank you’). "Parlez-vous anglais?" (‘Do you speak English?), "Excusez-moi de vous déranger" (‘Sorry to bother you’) and "Pourriez-vous m'aider?" (‘Could you help me?’) are also handy expressions you might need.
When asking for directions, make sure you use a map and ask someone who isn’t in a hurry. Streets in Paris are very complex and it might take some time to explain exactly how to get there.
Be very careful when crossing roads. Parisians tend to take some liberties regarding road safety and enjoy dashing through traffic lights trying to make it through in time. The best way to keep safe is to look both ways before crossing any road and respecting zebra crossings and traffic lights to a tee – don’t try to emulate Parisian driving, you’ll definitely end up sorry!
Most shops, museums, attractions and events are open Monday-Saturdays from 9 am to 7 pm. Some department stores, shops and supermarkets are open until 9 pm; make sure you check these facts before planning your trip. Most people have lunch from noon to 1:30 pm and dinner from 8:00-10:30 pm. If the restaurant you’re looking at has a sign saying “service continu” then you’ll probably be able to get a meal at any time during opening hours.
Paris has been striving to be a clean, immaculate city for several years now. Littering is heavily penalized (as well as not picking up after dogs). Therefore, make sure you throw any rubbish inside the thousands of rubbish bins found in the city. If you can’t find any – or if you find them sealed or removed – then hold on to your rubbish until then next bin you come across. Bins are sometimes sealed or removed for security reasons and there’s no saying when this could happen – just be careful (and, yes, throwing your chewing gum on the floor is considered littering as well).
On a final note, don’t conform yourself with Paris’ main attractions, museums and monuments. A city as lively as this is always brimming with events, festivals and shows that might be exactly what you don’t want to miss. Keep this in mind when planning your trip!
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